An estimated 700,000 children under the age of 12 are unvaccinated, and it’s feared they will be among the hardest hit by Covid-19 when Auckland opens its borders on December 15.
The Government announced those aged from five to 11 could get their first dose of the Pfizer vaccine from as early as January, if it is approved by Medsafe.
However, parents are concerned, including Lea, a frontline health worker.
“I do worry about that and my fear is that if I get it, passing it onto my kids and my husband, who has asthma,” she said.
Lea said while she is aware the Covid vaccine offers greater protection, she still has questions about its use on children.
“I'm kind of on the fence, and that is probably because I don't know much about it right now with kids.”
But developmental paediatrician Dr Jin Russell said “by the time we come to vaccinating our children in Aotearoa, we will have safety data on millions of doses given in the US”.
She said over 3 million doses have been administered in the first three weeks of the US rollout to children and “so far, there's been no safety signals”, indicating that it is unlikely to have side-effects.
Around 24 per cent of the current Delta outbreak have been children under 12. Just 0.4 per cent - or 37 cases - have been hospitalised children.
Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins said the coronavirus “can still have serious health consequences for them, particularly for children who are immunocompromised or have significant respiratory conditions”.
Russell said evidence from overseas shows that as people in older age groups are increasingly vaccinated, “the pandemic actually shifts onto children”.
“Children become a higher proportion of Covid-19 cases and we are seeing this in Aotearoa right now.”
She said immunocompromised children and those with at-risk relatives should be prioritised in the paediatric rollout here.
“But we also know the Delta outbreak is disproportionately affecting our Māori communities and our Māori children so for that reason, it would also be smart to prioritise Māori children to make sure we don't have an inequitable vaccine rollout.”
The child-sized dose is due to roll out in late January.