New Zealand’s medical regulator has given provisional approval for 12 to 15-year-olds to receive the Pfizer Covid-19 vaccination – but young Kiwis won’t be able to get the jab until the Government gives the final tick of approval.
Following today’s provisional approval, Ministry of Health officials will give advice to the Government to make a decision around using the vaccine, which is expected before the end of the month.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said until that decision is made, New Zealanders aged 12-15 would not be given the vaccine. But she said it was “in all of our interests” for children to be vaccinated.
“Children have been shown to transmit the virus, so being able to vaccinate them helps protect the wider community. When our children are vaccinated, their teachers, friends, siblings, parents and grandparents are more protected from the virus too.”
Ardern said New Zealand’s purchase order from Pfizer already contains enough doses to cover the 265,000 children in New Zealand aged 12 to 15.
The Government took a week to decide on the Pfizer vaccine rollout for people over 16 in February.
Provisional approval also means the vaccine needs to meet certain conditions, and more data needs to be gathered from clinical trials.
Current guidelines advise only New Zealanders aged 16 and over should receive the vaccination, due to clinical trials not including under 16s at the time of Pfizer‘s sign off in February.
Other countries have begun vaccinating youth, with approval for children aged 12-15 for Israel from June 6, Singapore from June 1, Japan from May 28 and the US and Canada from early May.
Some countries have been advised against vaccinating young people yet, such as the UK which approved Pfizer earlier this month, however the BBC reported it was unlikely to be recommended by vaccine experts for children who were not at risk.
The rollout of immunising young people in low risk countries has been criticised by the World Health Organization, as other countries battle with high death tolls as Covid continues to wreak havoc.
WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus last month criticised the world vaccine rollout as a “scandalous inequity that is perpetuating the pandemic”.
“There is no diplomatic way to say it – a small group of countries that make and buy the majority of the world’s vaccines control the fate of the rest of the world. The number of those administered globally so far would have been enough to cover all health workers and older people if they had been distributed equitably.
“Countries that vaccinate children and other low risk groups now, do so at the expense of health workers and high risk groups in other countries – that’s the reality now.”
According to Reuters, Pfizer is now planning to look into vaccinating children aged 5-11.