Watch: Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins receives first dose of Pfizer vaccine, as does Associate Health Minister Ayesha Verrall.
New Zealand may not be at the front of the queue for the data it needs before the Pfizer vaccine can be approved for children ages 12 to 15, the Health Ministry said.
The vaccine is currently approved by Medsafe for those aged 16 and over, but yesterday Pfizer and BioNTech released the results of their phase three clinical trial which demonstrated 100 percent efficacy for those aged 12 to 15 years.
Medsafe is expected to provide data on the trial in due time, a Health Ministry spokesman said, although New Zealand is not expected to be on the high priority list.
“It is likely they will prioritize countries with high levels of Covid-19 infection first,” said a ministry spokesman.
Extending vaccine approval to 12 to 15 year olds in New Zealand requires first an application from Pfizer.
“Medsafe needs to review the data to consider renewal approval,” said a ministry spokesman, adding that strict safety and efficacy standards had to be met.
The trials demonstrated a strong antibody response and tolerable side effects consistent with those seen in adults aged 16 to 25 years.
That includes 2,260 adolescents in the United States, with and without evidence of previous SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes the disease) infection. There were 18 cases of Covid-19 in the placebo group and none in the vaccinated group.
A strong antibody response was observed in most adolescents one month after the second dose.
Further clinical trials have started in children aged 5 to 11 years and are expected to start in children aged 2 to 5 years in early April, followed by ages six months to 2 years.
Vaccinating young people is considered important to achieve herd immunity. In New Zealand, more than 1 million people – 20 percent of the population – are under 16 years of age.
Immunization Advisory Center Clinical Director Dr Nikki Turner said the trial results were “very promising”.
“Hopefully, with this promising looking data, we won’t go too far from being able to expand New Zealand’s Covid-19 immunization program to children as well.
“By doing so we will ensure more New Zealanders are protected individually and also, with more New Zealanders being vaccinated, the more we will be in a position to reduce the risk of community spread.”
Covid-19 Secretary Chris Hipkins, who received his first dose of vaccine this week, agrees the signs are encouraging, but they are “early days”.
Hipkins said the Government had ordered enough Pfizer stocks to get the vaccine to everyone in New Zealand – across all age groups.
“If not [get approved], our base is covered because of the wide portfolio we have. For example, AstraZeneca could prove to be the right vaccine for younger New Zealanders, or Novavax [or Janssen]. “