Monday, July 15, 2024

COVID vaccine available for at-risk children

Children aged six months to four years who are at higher risk of severe disease if they contract COVID-19 will have access to a version of the paediatric Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine from tomorrow.

Astrid Koornneef, Director of the National Immunisation Programme, says the vaccine is an important addition to the suite of immunisations available to help protect children in Aotearoa. 

“We know that immunisations are critically important to the health of our tamariki. Having access to a COVID-19 vaccine will provide protection to younger children who would otherwise be at risk of severe illness if they were to get COVID-19,” she said.

“The vaccine contains a lower dose of mRNA that has been specially formulated for this age group and has been approved by Medsafe. It’s also a three-dose course, with the second dose given 3 weeks after the first, followed by a third dose at least 8 weeks after the second.”

Following Medsafe approval, the COVID-19 Vaccine Technical Advisory Group (CV-TAG) recommended to the Ministry of Health that the vaccine be approved for use in children who are severely immunocompromised, or who have complex and/or multiple health conditions which increase the risk of severe disease from COVID-19.

“That means that from tomorrow parents and guardians of eligible children will be able to book a vaccine by calling Healthline on 0800 28 29 26 or visiting, with vaccines available in selected locations across the country,” said Ms Koornneef.

The vaccine is available for children aged from 6 months to 4 years who have the following health conditions: 

  • chronic lung disease including bronchiectasis, cystic fibrosis, BiPAP for OSA (excluding mild, controlled asthma);
  • complex congenital heart disease, acquired heart disease or congestive heart failure 
  • diabetes (insulin-dependent);
  • chronic kidney disease;
  • severe cerebral palsy (or severe neurodisability including neuromuscular disorders) ; 
  • complex genetic, metabolic disease or multiple congenital anomalies for example trisomy 21/Downs Syndrome;
  • primary or acquired immunodeficiency;
  • haematologic malignancy and/or post-transplant (solid organ or HSCT in last 24 months); 
  • on immunosuppressive treatment including chemotherapy, high-dose corticosteroids, biologics or DMARDS. 

“Those children who are not in any of the high-risk categories have a low likelihood of severe illness from COVID-19 meaning they won’t need, or be eligible for, the vaccine.”

The Ministry of Health’s COVID-19 Vaccine Technical Advisory Group will continue to review new information on COVID-19 and COVID-19 vaccines and will make further recommendations if necessary, said Ms Koornneef.

For more detailed information on the eligibility criteria see the Starship table of underlying comorbidities.

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