A spokesman for the immunization authority says extending the vaccine launch to children ages 12 to 15 will help protect the wider community.
Cabinet has agreed that the Pfizer vaccine will be available for children 12-15 years of age starting today.
This after Medsafe, following the lead of many of its overseas counterparts, gave it a provisional go-ahead in June.
So do parents have anything to worry about besides the usual worries of someone getting hit? And how necessary is it for this group to be done now?
Dr. Nikki Turner from the Immunization Counseling Center said Morning report young people should be vaccinated, as the delta variant has seen an increase in infections in this age group worldwide.
“This is the new delta virus, it is much more transmissible in younger people than in previous ones, so the number of young people who get sick around the world has increased, which really changes the appearance.”
“They still don’t get as badly ill as older people, but what happened with the delta variant is that more people are getting sick, so more of the younger population in all countries with the delta variant are seeing a big number of younger people “.
“The more (young people) you see, there will be a small proportion of them that will end up in the hospital, so we are seeing more sick young people just in a numbers game.”
Turner said that while it is important to protect younger people with pre-existing health conditions, the decision to implement the vaccine in this younger age group will help protect people of all ages from the virus.
“Obviously, there are some young people with serious medical conditions, but we are concerned and want to vaccinate all of our young people and there are groups that are at higher risk.
“The vaccine does not stop the spread of the virus, but it definitely reduces the spread, so first of all, for the protection of our young people, but also to support our entire community, this is a good measure,” he said.
Turner said parents can assure their children that the vaccine is safe, and health authorities have conducted a thorough investigation to ensure that.
“The New Zealand authorities authorize the vaccines after being certain from the science, both of their effectiveness and their safety, that this vaccine for people 12 to 15 years old works in a very similar way to those 16 years and older.” .
Turner said it is important to note that many people are afraid of needles and parents should talk to their children to help them overcome this before the vaccination process.
The side effects of the vaccine will not be different for younger people compared to other age groups, Turner said.
“The side effects look the same as in the larger cohort, so the common side effects are the same that we’re already seeing with arm pain, muscle aches, and feverish fatigue.
“So the very rare side effects that we know about are severe anaphylaxis, a very rare potential event called myocarditis and these things are seen in the other age groups that you don’t see more in this age group.”
Although Turner admits that the current vaccination system will not be able to reach enough people in the 12-15 age group, he said school vaccination programs are not on the cards yet.
“It won’t get the outreach we need, it’s great to be able to bring younger people and vaccinate all the whanau together, that’s a really positive move to try to protect the whole family.”
“In terms of absolute numbers, we are still targeting the older age groups. We do not expect to run school programs this year; they require a lot of energy and a lot of effort from the health services.”
Turner doesn’t expect school vaccination programs to come into play until next year – he hopes that by then they will have received the scientific data that would allow them to vaccinate even younger children.
Immunologist Graham Le Gros said vaccinating New Zealand youth is vital protection for them and their elders.
“It is these children who know their grandparents and elderly people who are very vulnerable to the virus, so vaccinating them puts an immune protection ring around our most vulnerable members.
“The sooner we can get these children who are very active and move around the country a lot … we vaccinate them, it becomes a protection zone, really important for our community.”
Le Gros said that with the Delta strain in the country, now is the time to vaccinate the young.
“It’s significant enough that you don’t want your teenagers to get this virus, we don’t know where covid is going to end up for a long time with some of these kids and some kids really don’t do well.
“You don’t want this virus, so getting vaccinated is much better than getting the infection.”