Covid-19: Logistical issues hamper children’s vaccine rollout

Source: 1News

The Covid-19 vaccination programme is opening up to children aged five to 11 on Monday, but the rollout is already experiencing logistical issues with parents struggling to book a slot in advance and some pharmacies saying getting stock is a challenge.

It means many parents are worried they won't get their kids vaccinated in time for the start of the school year.

The Ministry of Health told 1News in a statement that bookings will only be made available from Monday after "time was needed to allow for the necessary operational changes to be made by the ministry".

"Some of these changes are complex and are across multiple systems. Bookings can still be made by phone by calling Covid Vaccination Healthline on 0800 28 29 26 (7 days a week from 8 am to 8 pm) or by making an appointment directly with general practices, Hauora providers, or community pharmacies that operate their own booking systems."

The ministry said half a million doses of the paediatric version of the Pfizer vaccine arrived in New Zealand on January 8.

"All sites across the country who have ordered have had their orders delivered (apart from those being delivered tomorrow (Saturday)," the statement said.

"We have ongoing supplies arriving each week and access to enough doses to vaccinate all five-11 year old New Zealanders, as well as those turning five-years-old in 2022."

Read more: Some providers not ready for paediatric Covid vaccine rollout

An Auckland dad told 1News he's keen to get his children vaccinated as soon as they're allowed.

"It is the only protection and what you can see is that this new strain is going to be, is much more prevalent," David Hellyer says.

It's a similar story for a number of other parents 1News spoke to. One called three different places before she found one who was taking bookings, others have struggled to find an appointment at all.

While some clinics are taking appointments, the online booking system will only be active from Monday and not all vaccine centres are ready.

Some centres say getting official guidance has been slow.

"In terms of how the guidance - that's been coming a bit slow, we're quite used to it, we hoped it would come sooner so it would give us plenty of time to prepare for this ," says Auckland doctor Gary Wu.

Medsafe approved a version of the Pfizer vaccine for children, which has a slightly different makeup to the adult vaccine used to date.

The vaccine for children aged five to 11 is a smaller volume and contains a lower dose of the active ingredient.

The lower dose was chosen based on a trial which showed the lower dose was effective and had a similar safety profile to the adult vaccine, with few side effects in this age group.