Kid’s COVID Vaccines Roll Out – Expert Reaction

Younger children can receive two doses of the
children’s version of the Pfizer vaccine

Almost half
a million New Zealand kids will be eligible
for COVID-19 vaccination from Monday
, when
criteria widen to include 5-11 year olds.

As the
roll-out progresses, equitable
to vaccines for children, especially
tamariki Māori, will be closely scrutinised in the wake of
Tribunal recommendations
last month.

SMC asked experts to comment.

Associate Professor
Siouxsie Wiles, School of Medical Sciences, Faculty of
Medical and Health Sciences, University of Auckland,

“I’m really grateful that our younger
children will now be able to participate in protecting
themselves and their loved ones from Covid-19. The
real-world data is clearly showing that Pfizer’s
children’s vaccine is safe and effective. In the USA
alone, 8.7 million doses were given to 5-to-11-year-olds
between 3 November and 19 December 2021. Like New Zealand,
the USA has a system, called VAERS, for people to report any
potential side effects from vaccination. An analysis of the
data shows there were no deaths related to vaccination and
of the 4,249 reports to VAERS, most were for errors with how
the vaccine was stored or prepared or for side effects like
fatigue or headaches. The VAERS data also shows that
myocarditis after the Pfizer vaccine is very rare in this
age group. There were just 15 reports, of which 11 were
verified. At the time of the analysis, seven of the children
had already recovered and the other four were

“It is a privilege to have such a safe
and effective vaccine being rolled out to our younger
children and for me highlights once again the global
disparities in access to vaccines. Current data shows that
just 13 doses of Covid-19 vaccines have been delivered per
100 people for those in low-income countries. For
high-income countries, it’s 173 doses per 100 people. No
one is safe until we are all safe, so I hope that people
will take up the opportunity to get their children
vaccinated, to get their own booster doses, and to advocate
for access to vaccines for those less privileged than

No conflicts of interest

Dr Dion O’Neale, Principal
Investigator, Te Pūnaha Matatini; and Lecturer, Physics
Department, University of Auckland,

“Vaccinating 5 to 11 year olds will be a
big step forward for reducing opportunities for COVID-19
transmission and protecting against severe symptoms from
breakthrough infections. Aotearoa has a relatively young
population – 90% of the 12 plus population being
vaccinated translates into only 75% of the total population.
Opening up vaccination for 5 to 11 year olds means that
around half of the people who were previously ineligible for
vaccination will now have access to the protection that
vaccination offers.

“This pattern is stronger in the
case of Māori, where an even younger population means that
90% vaccination coverage for 12 and older still leaves a
third of Māori unvaccinated. It’s therefore crucial that
the extension of vaccine eligibility to children has a
strong focus on making those vaccinations accessible to

“The low case numbers for COVID that we have
seen recently, have all taken place against a background of
children being out of school and many adults being on
holiday. As children return to school, it is important that
we try to ensure they have the highest rates of protection
possible, through getting them vaccinated

Conflict of interest statement: I,
along with others from Te Pūnaha Matatini, are funded by
Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet to provide advice
on the COVID response and from a Health Research Council
grant to look at equity related to COVID in

Dr Dianne Sika-Paotonu, Immunologist,
Associate Dean (Pacific), Head of University of Otago
Wellington Pacific Office, and Senior Lecturer, Pathology
& Molecular Medicine, University of Otago Wellington,

“Our 5-11 year old children, tamariki and
tamaiki, will have access to the paediatric Pfizer COVID-19
vaccine on Monday 17th January 2022, and will have had less
time than others across Aotearoa New Zealand to get their
COVID-19 vaccine – an equity focus with appropriate
prioritisation with the vaccination roll-out will be
critical, with 500,000 paediatric doses of the Pfizer
COVID-19 vaccine arriving in Aotearoa New Zealand last

“Of those affected by the current Delta
outbreak in Aotearoa New Zealand, a total of 2,276 (or 20%)
children, tamariki and tamaiki aged 9 years and under, were
infected by the virus and ended up with COVID-19 – this
also included babies and a 6-week-old.

levels for Māori receiving their first dose of the COVID-19
vaccine have now reached 88% and 83% for those receiving
their second, with 95% of eligible Pacific peoples having
received their first dose and 92% now fully vaccinated. It
was reported also that Capital Coast DHB has reached 90%
fully vaccination levels for Māori.

“This is a
result of relentless work, commitment, energy and effort by
Māori and Pacific teams working tirelessly to drive up
vaccination levels and protect their communities by
addressing accessibility issues, reducing barriers and
building trust – this work must be supported to

“That more than 90% of 12 – 15 year olds
in Aotearoa New Zealand are now fully vaccinated against
COVID-19 is also welcome news.

“There remains work
to do in Aotearoa New Zealand if we want to keep everyone
safe and protected from COVID-19. Omicron’s higher
transmissibility could still lead to increased case numbers
in our communities in Aotearoa New Zealand, and poses risk
for the most vulnerable. A maintained focus on vaccination,
boosters, border controls and public health measures is
still needed. COVID-19 testing efforts must also

“Please stay safe this summer and keep
others around you safe as well – by getting vaccinated,
boosted, tested, following the rules and reaching out to
help others do the same.”

No conflicts of

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