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Media release - Winter is coming, get prepared says Paediatric Society

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Winter is coming, get prepared says Paediatric Society

With winter approaching, the Paediatric Society of New Zealand encourages children and whānau to take up protections against an expected surge in winter viral illnesses.

Paediatric Society paediatrician, Dr Emma Best says, “Winter is often a time when viruses thrive. We expect an increase in influenza, RSV, and Covid-19 this winter. The borders have been closed and pandemic measures worked to suppress influenza and other viruses. Many tamariki and whānau have reduced immunity to common childhood viruses, and as a result this winter could be particularly tough.”

“Simple healthy habits like staying at home if you are unwell, washing our hands and wearing a face mask can stop the spread of infectious illnesses; however vaccination is one of the most important ways we can protect ourselves, our whānau and our communities from many infectious diseases, particularly our most vulnerable population groups like babies and children.”

The Paediatric Society strongly encourages tamariki and whānau to be immunised to protect against influenza, particularly if the child has pre-existing health conditions.

Paediatricians are also concerned that immunisation rates for vaccine-preventable illnesses such as measles and whooping cough have fallen to low levels over the pandemic, particularly for Māori. Paediatricians encourage whānau to ensure their tamariki have caught up on routine childhood vaccinations, noting that young children are at risk of serious illness if measles or whooping cough outbreaks occur due to reduced community immunity.

Paediatricians wish to reassure whānau that older age remains the strongest risk factor for severe Covid-19 illness. Tamariki and rangatahi generally experience a mild or asymptomatic illness from Covid-19 infection, clinically similar to other common viral illnesses of childhood. Serious illness can occur in a small proportion of tamariki and rangatahi.

Paediatrician Dr Jin Russell says, “Vaccination is safe for tamariki to protect them from serious complications of Covid infection. We encourage all tamariki to have two vaccine doses, including completing the vaccine course if children have already had Covid-19 infection.”

Paediatrician Dr Greg Williams says, “There have been concerns about long covid in children and this is an ongoing area of research. Fortunately, long covid is much less common in children - most children and young people recover very well. Symptoms can persist in a small number of children. The Paediatric Society supports efforts to ensure all children with post-viral symptoms receive appropriate medical care.”

The Society supports schools being well resourced to maintain a multi-layered approach to reducing Covid-19 and common respiratory viruses, including masks and adequate ventilation in schools and other indoor settings, particularly during periods of high transmission.

Paediatrician Dr Danny de Lore says, “Wearing masks and ensuring adequate ventilation in schools will help reduce staff and student illness through winter, as well as help prevent unavoidable school closures due to staff shortages.”

Paediatricians wish to reaffirm the importance of access to in-person schooling and the educational, health and social supports that schools provide. Proactive school closures, as a strategy to control Covid-19, disproportionately impact Māori and Pacific young people and whānau, and those from low socioeconomic households, and the effectiveness of school closures is uncertain when inconsistent with a wider society approach to reducing infection.

The Paediatric Society wishes to draw attention to the wider impacts of the pandemic upon children and young people, including household illness and isolation, reduced socialisation, disruption to school life, and disruption to healthcare services, social and educational supports.

Paediatrician Dr Teuila Percival says, “Rangitahi thrive when they have routines and consistency in their lives. We need to limit disruptions for young people as we move forwards in the pandemic. Young people have been through a lot and their wellbeing and futures need to be at the centre of our response.”

Paediatrician Dr Alison Leversha says, “Our Kidshealth website provides information for whānau about Covid-19 covering a variety of topics from coping with worry and concern about Covid, recovering from Covid, and parenting support for your child’s emotions and behaviour.”

ENDS

For more information or interviews please contact Ally Clelland, Communications Manager, Paediatric Society of NZ on 022 044 2161 or email [email protected]

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