Children between 5 and 11 years old may be able to get vaccinated against Covid-19 by the end of January 2022. 

Medsafe, the country's medicines and medical devices safety authority, has given provisional approval for two doses to be given at least 21 days apart.

On Thursday, Medsafe group manager Chris James says the Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine for this age group is an adapted version of the vaccine used for people aged 12 and older.

“The Medsafe team has worked tirelessly this year to ensure that Covid-19 vaccine applications are prioritised and urgently reviewed, while still maintaining the same scrutiny that all medicine applications undergo before they can be approved," James says.  

“Medsafe will only approve a vaccine or medicine for use in New Zealand once it is satisfied that it has met high standards for quality, safety and efficacy."

The Ministry of Health’s national immunisation programme director, Astrid Koornneef, says that work is well under way to prepare for the potential rollout of the paediatric Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine in New Zealand.

“Medsafe approval is the first step in the process, and the Covid-19 Vaccine Technical Advisory Group is now providing advice to the Ministry of Health to inform Cabinet’s decision whether to use the vaccine in New Zealand," Koornneef says. 

“If Cabinet agrees to use the vaccine in New Zealand, we want to have systems in place to roll out the vaccine safely and efficiently, at the earliest opportunity. This means completing the necessary training and working with the community to roll out the vaccine, including through whānau-based approaches."

If approved by Cabinet, the roll out of the paediatric Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine is expected to start in New Zealand no later than the end of January 2022.

University of Auckland associate professor Siouxsie Wiles says with the Delta variant in the community and Omicron "knocking on our doors", having a safe vaccine for children between the ages of 5 to 11 is crucial for preventing long-term health problems and saving lives.

"Every parent and caregiver will want this vaccine to have undergone the necessary scrutiny so they can be confident that vaccinating their children is safe and the right decision to protect both them and their whānau," Wiles says.

"Now we need to begin to prepare to roll out the vaccine as soon as possible so that children are protected before they return to school next year.

"We must learn from the mistakes of the adult vaccine rollout and design a programme in true partnership with Māori and Pacific people that will ensure an equitable rollout that prioritises those communities most hard to reach and at risk."

Top Image: A child in Italy receives a dose of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine. Photo: Antonio Masiello/Getty Images

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