NZ Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has announced that the country’s medical regulator, Medsafe, has provisionally approved Pfizer’s vaccine as safe for 12- to 15-year-olds. The government will debate the matter at the end of June.
In a statement made on Monday, Ardern revealed that: “After careful consideration of the most up-to-date scientific and medical data available, Medsafe has announced provisional approval for our young people to be given the Pfizer vaccine.”
The PM’s statement will mean that 265,000 minors will be eligible to receive the vaccination by the end of 2021, if approved by the government later this month. However, the Pfizer vaccine is not expected to be offered to this group until October, as the country intends to vaccinate members of its more vulnerable population first.
While Ardern noted that children often experience mild Covid-19 symptoms, she stressed that they can be carriers of the virus and subsequently infect more vulnerable members of both their families and the wider society, concluding that “it’s in all of our interests for this group to get the vaccine.”
The US and Canada approved the use of Pfizer’s vaccine for youngsters aged 12 to 15 last month, but Moderna’s vaccine still awaits ratification. America’s Food and Drug Administration (FDA) confirmed that the Pfizer shot was suitable for and beneficial in protecting young people from the virus, after it was trialed on 2,000 children in April. Following the release of the FDA’s results, Health Canada followed in its neighbor’s footsteps and approved the vaccine for the same age bracket.
However, in a recent trial conducted by Pfizer in America, seven minors aged between 14 and 19 suffered a rare acute heart inflammation, myocarditis, that might be a side-effect of the vaccine, doctors say. According to CNN, the youths experienced symptoms such as chest pain and fever.
European countries that have approved the use of the Pfizer vaccine and begun vaccinating under-16s include France, Italy, and Switzerland. Meanwhile, a cautious UK has approved its usage for 12- to 15-year-olds, but is waiting to obtain more scientific data before administering it.
China, on the other hand, approved the use of Sinopharm and Sinovac jabs for children as young as three in mid and early June, respectively.
New Zealand has so far vaccinated about 9% of its population, and is currently inoculating anyone aged over 65 and those who are at high risk of becoming severely ill from Covid, such as care workers, expectant mothers, and people with certain disabilities. From the end of July, it will invite all members of the public aged under 60 to obtain a vaccination.
The country has managed to curb mass infections and deaths from Covid-19, and has reported only 2,718 cases and 26 deaths since March 2020.
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