Pfizer and BioNTech have released the results of their Phase III clinical trial which shows 100 percent effectiveness for those aged 12 to 15. The vaccine was already Medsafe-approved for those aged 16 years and above. According to the Ministry of Health, Medsafe is expected to be provided the data on the mentioned clinical trial in due course.
In New Zealand, more than 1 million people or 20 percent of the population are under 16 years old and it is important to vaccinate young people to achieve herd immunity.
However, New Zealand may not be at the front queue as it is more likely that they will prioritize countries with higher Covid-19 cases, a spokesperson of the Ministry of Health said. "Medsafe will need to review the data to consider approving an extension," the ministry spokesperson said, adding that thorough security and adequacy guidelines would need to be met.
The trial showed a strong antibody response and tolerable side effects consistent with those seen in adults aged 16 to 25. It included 2260 adolescents in the United States, with and without evidence of prior 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 reaction was seen in a subset of young people one month after the second dose. Further clinical trials have commenced in children aged 5 to 11 and are expected to begin in younger children aged 2 to 5 in early April, followed by ages six months to 2 years old.
Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins said the Government has ordered enough stock to administer the vaccine across all age groups in the country.
"Hopefully, with data looking this promising, we will not be too far away from being able to broaden our New Zealand Covid-19 immunization program to children as well.
"In doing so we will ensure more New Zealanders are protected individually and also, with more New Zealanders vaccinated, the more we will be in a position to reduce the risk of community spread."
"In the event that they don't [get approved], we've got our bases covered because of the broad portfolio that we've got. For example, the AstraZeneca could prove to be the right vaccine for younger New Zealanders, or Novavax [or Janssen]."