24 Aug 2021

Covid-19 vaccination for under-12s - what you need to know

From Checkpoint, 5:21 pm on 24 August 2021

A vaccinologist says that children under 12 could be vaccinated against Covid-19 as soon as the end of the year.

It was revealed today that a baby, who is not even a year old, is the youngest person to have Covid-19 in the Delta outbreak. 

There were 41 new community cases reported today bringing the total cluster to 148 with a number of the current cases in their 20s and late teens. 

Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield, responding to a question from National's health spokesperson Dr Shane Reti, today told the Health Select Committee the youngest confirmed case from this outbreak was aged under one year old. 
Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins said the Delta variant appeared to be infecting younger people at a greater rate than other variants. 

Since the outbreak the government has approved Covid-19 shots for 12 to 16 year olds. Officially that is from 1 September but they can be vaccinated now if they tag along with a parent who is getting immunised. 

Covid-19 modeller and government adviser Rodney Jones has said that vaccinating people down to the age of five years old will be necessary to achieve a vaccination rate over 80 percent.

Vaccinologist Dr Helen Petousis-Harris told Checkpoint under-12s could potentially be vaccinated for Covid-19 by the end of this year.

She said the clinical trials for vaccinating younger age groups for Covid-19 were nearly complete, and the data was about to be presented for authorisation.

She said if the Pfizer vaccine was approved for young children it is possible it could be added to the existing vaccination programme for children.

"There's no reason to think that there would be a problem administering it at the same time, it's just that we take these things one step at a time as we gather the data."

If she had an infant, she said she would be "absolutely" comfortable for that child to be vaccinated for Covid-19, "in the same way that I would be with any other vaccine that has gone through that approval process".

Dr Petousis-Harris said there was growing concern among paediatric specialists around the world about how Covid-19 was affecting children, particularly with the Delta variant.

"I think ultimately they [children] are going to have to become a focus as we drive this down because they're going be the ones bearing the brunt of the disease."

She said approval for children to be vaccinated against Covid-19 was expected in the United States in the next couple of months.

"It depends on New Zealand's regulatory agency Medsafe how quickly they approve it here for those age groups, I guess we have to wait and see, but potentially I guess it could be the end of the year."