Government confirms COVID-19 vaccinations to protect tamariki

Parents and caregivers will have the opportunity to protect their children aged 5 to 11 against COVID-19 with the child version of the Pfizer vaccine, COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins confirmed today.

“A key focus of the Government is to keep everyone in New Zealand safe from the COVID-19 pandemic,” Chris Hipkins said.

“That’s why Cabinet has agreed with the advice from the COVID-19 Technical Advisory Group, off the back of Medsafe approval that confirms both the safety and efficacy of the paediatric vaccine, to use of the vaccine to protect 5 to 11-years-olds.

“This will happen from 17 January. There are 476,000 children between ages 5-11 who will become eligible to get their first dose from this date, and their second dose at least eight weeks later. 

“As we have seen to date, the virus can be unpredictable. While COVID-19 generally has milder effects in children, with symptoms similar to a cold, some children become severely ill and require hospitalisation.

“In the most recent outbreak, 24% of cases have been aged 11 or under.

“Like we have seen with adults, if your child is infected with COVID-19 they may transmit the virus to other people. Immunising 5 to 11-year-olds helps protect whānau members whose health makes them more vulnerable to COVID-19.”

The Ministry of Health is working with iwi, DHBs, hauora providers, and community organisations to roll out the Pfizer vaccine to children in ways that suit whānau and communities.

While there are no plans for a school-based immunisation programme, schools are being considered as community vaccination sites. This will add capacity to the vaccination network and make it even easier for families to get vaccinated.

“The government is strongly encouraging parents to have their children vaccinated against COVID-19, but I want to be clear that this is a choice for parents. The Government has no intention of making COVID-19 vaccinations mandatory for anyone in this age group,” Chris Hipkins said.

“I encourage parents to make an informed choice and have their children vaccinated to protect them and those they love."

Notes for editors:

  • Children need two doses of the vaccine to be fully protected. It is recommended that these are given at least 8 weeks apart, however the interval can be safely shortened to a minimum of 21 days if needed, for example if your child is starting significant immunosuppression treatment.
  • The vaccine is free. A parent, caregiver or legal guardian will need to accompany your child to their appointment(s) as the responsible adult and provide consent for them to be vaccinated.
  • The vaccine has been through clinical trials in children of the same age group. In general, the side effects that were reported were mild, didn’t last long, and were similar to side effects from other routine vaccines.
  • Myocarditis and pericarditis are very rare but serious side effects of the Pfizer vaccine. In the clinical trial no cases were seen in children aged 5 to 11 however it is important to be aware of the symptoms for all ages who are vaccinated. The Covid-19 Vaccination Technical Advisory Group (CV-TAG) and Medsafe will continue to monitor safety data, including for these rare side effects, from the rollout of programmes to 5 to 11 year old children in other countries.
  • Parents or caregivers can go to a walk-in clinic with their tamariki or use BookMyVaccine.nz to get immunised with their usual health provider, hauora, or general practice (make sure you select the appropriate age range).
  • If you want to book for more than one child or you’re unable to book online, you can call the COVID Vaccination Healthline on 0800 28 29 26 (8am to 8pm, 7 days a week).
  • The disability team is available Monday to Friday, from 8am to 8pm. To book an immunisation appointment for your tamariki call 0800 28 29 26 and push 2; Free text: 8988 or email: accessiblecovidvaccinations@whakarongorau.nz