They are going to vaccinate children in New Zealand

They are going to vaccinate children in New Zealand

Medsafe gives Pfizer vaccine provisional approval for ages 12+

In a statement, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern confirmed Medsafe had granted “provisional approval” of the vaccine for youth aged 12 to 15, conditional on Pfizer continuing to provide data from its clinical trials.

“Medsafe’s approval has been a very carefully considered and robust process, with safety the key priority,” Ardern said.

The government is likely to give the final sign-off later this month after considering advice from the Ministry of Health. Until then, the minimum age for a vaccine remains 16.

“There are around 265,000 children in the 12-15 age bracket and our existing Pfizer purchase order contains more than enough doses to cover two shots for this entire group,” Ardern said.

Topic picture - vaccination with the Comirnaty mRNA vaccine from BionTech Pfizer. Vaccine doses with vaccine for injection with a cannula. Close up.

Photo: AFP

“We don’t need to buy any more to cover them, and no one will miss out as a result of this decision.”

Children are much less likely than adults to get severely ill from Covid-19, but overseas some have been hospitalised and even died. Young people can also transmit the virus to others.

“Put simply: when our children are vaccinated, their teachers, friends, siblings, parents and grandparents are more protected from the virus too,” Ardern said.

“So it’s in all of our interests for this group to get the vaccine.”

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern at 21 June post-Cabinet conference.

Photo: RNZ / Samuel Rillstone

Last week, Ardern received her first dose of the vaccine.

Speaking at her weekly post-Cabinet media briefing this afternoon, Ardern said that while it was early, schools and community hubs would play a pivotal role in giving vaccinations to the younger age group.

Some children, such as those of MIQ workers, may be vaccinated sooner than others if the MedSafe decision was approved by Cabinet, she said.

The millionth vaccine was due to be given in the next 24 hours, and the 2 millionth would hopefully be given in the next six to eight weeks, showing how much the programme would be scaled up, Ardern said.

Also at the briefing, Dr Ashley Bloomfield said the technical advisory group had no concerns about the efficacy and safety of the Pfizer vaccine for the 12- to 15-year-olds. He said it would be important to reach Pacific and Māori families with children in that age band.

He said trials were under way to assess if the vaccine was appropriate for children aged 6 to 11, and Medsafe would consider the results of those when they became available.

Bloomfield said 50,000 to 70,000 would be vaccinated daily soon. The programme would have the capacity to handle rolling out the vaccine for young people.

Pfizer announced its study’s findings on vaccine use in young people in April, declaring it safe and strongly protective for children as young as 12.

Director-General of Health Ashley Bloomfield at 21 June post-Cabinet conference.

Photo: RNZ / Samuel Rillstone

Asked about parents nervous about having their children vaccinated, Arder said that was why Medsafe was involved, looking at the latest scientific information.

“Our number one priority is the safety of all New Zealanders,” she says, saying Cabinet relied on Medsafe’s advice.

She said the Health Ministry had been talking to the Ministry of Education about schools’ role in vaccination.

Trans-Tasman travel

Discussing quarantine free travel to and from Victoria, due to be announced tomorrow, Ardern said the latest information will need to be considered.

The government has also continued the quarantine-free travel with the Australian state of NSW, despite a cluster of cases identified in the community.

Travellers arriving from there were urged to keep an eye out on the locations of interest, and isolate and get tested if they have been there.

The pause on travel from Victoria to New Zealand is due to end tomorrow at 11.59pm. New South Wales and Victoria respectively reported two and one new cases of Covid-19 in the community today.

Using lies to defend the indefensible

Covid-19: Vaccinating children will help protect entire population – epidemiologist

Vaccinating children against Covid-19 will boost chances of reaching herd immunity, epidemiologist Michael Baker says.

Michael Baker

Michael Baker Photo: supplied / Otago University Wellington

Medsafe has given the all-clear for New Zealanders as young as 12 to receive the Pfizer vaccine, conditional on the pharmaceutical company continuing to provide data from its clinical trials.

The government is likely to give the final sign-off later this month after considering advice from the Ministry of Health. Until then, the minimum age for a vaccine remains 16.

Though children were at low risk they occasionally became seriously ill with Covid-19, so the vaccine would protect them, Baker said.

“But the main benefit is the population protection we get by vaccinating more people and that will really limit the spread of the virus.”

With newer, more infections variants, 80-90 percent of the population will have to be immunised to reach herd immunity, he said.

There were trials under way for vaccinating children down to age six months, but there was a question how important that would be for reducing transmission.

Baker said the dosage of the vaccine was slightly lower for children.

“You want to give the minimal amount of vaccine that gives really a vigourous immune response.

“The good thing with children is they’ve got very lively immune systems so they need a smaller dose of the vaccine.”

Children would mostly be vaccinated later in the rollout, other than special cases such as if they were family members of border workers, he said.

Health leaders are generally pleased at the prospect of vaccination being available for younger age groups but some would like children bumped up the queue. University of Auckland Professor of Medicine Des Gorman said some 12 to 15-year-olds with pre-existing health conditions should be “given the vaccine tomorrow”.

Auckland specialist paediatrician Dr Emma Best told Morning Report there would be benefit in prioritising some children but the main effort should be getting the vaccine to people at most risk of serious illness from the disease.

“In the long term, the vaccine may well be applicable for this age group.

“At the moment we really want to concentrate our efforts on making sure those most at risk of the disease – whether they’re going to be exposed to it or get very seriously ill from it – get that vaccine.”

There may be special groups within the younger age group who could benefit from early vaccination such as children of border workers who have a risk of exposure to the virus, she said.

International evidence of children getting seriously ill from Covid-19 – even those with other health conditions – was limited, but immunising the younger group would help protect older adults in the family.

“There is some individual benefit but stopping them potentially being somebody who passed [the virus] on to others is important too.”

Baker said trials of a few thousand participants had so far shown the vaccine was well-tolerated by children and side effects were consistent with those observed in older age groups and were mild to moderate local reactions.



By Amanda Vickers

3 June, 2021

On pink shirt day, Stuff published a long-form piece dedicated to ridiculing and denigrating one of NZ’s leading epidemiologists, Dr. Simon Thornley.

Pink shirt day aims to create communities where people feel valued and respected.

Stuff’s language includes phrases such as:  “feverishly embraces conspiracy theories”, “demand he be fired or censored” and “a personality trait could explain his actions”.

These are amongst dozens of other ad hominem and sweeping statements using disparaging language and ridicule.

The reason? The scientist does not conform to dominant social norms with respect to the Covid response.

The article sets out to manipulate the reader to conform to the narrative, or they too will be categorised as a batshit-crazy, tin-foil hat-wearing conspiracy theorist.

This is a dismal low for our media. Our society strives for a social norm that rejects bullying – and that includes rejecting language that is cruel and insulting. New Zealand news media’s self-imposed standards  include “accuracy, fairness, and balance.” Despite their principles, NZ’s media were quoted as being part of a “sustained propaganda campaign” by the Prime Minister. It is clear these two outcomes are mutually exclusive.

The article may be explained by the work of Dr. Maja Graso, who said:

“Public shaming of scientists and experts is more acceptable to people when it goes against the prevailing opinion”.

Dr. Maja Graso, a senior lecturer at the University of Otago, recently published a paper suggesting there is a bias against studies that evaluate the social costs of strict Covid measures. That evaluation is one of the topics discussed by Dr. Thornley and as such, he is a living testament to Dr. Graso’s study results.

The Stuff article was music to the ears of those who cherish the dominant narrative. As if they had just read a social psychology textbook, one elected representative stated on social media “very thoughtful editorial”.

A social media post from an elected representative describes the article as “very thoughtful”

Dr. Graso goes on to explain that,

“People are more accepting of the human cost that emerges from strict (Covid) responses – people do not want to question that”.

The technical term is “asymmetrical tolerance”. In lay terms, it means “bias” and arises when something has become a sacred value of society that is beyond questioning and beyond reproach. Social psychology terms that “moralisation”. Dr. Graso’s study results suggest the Covid response has indeed become moralised.

Scientific America also reports on shutting down dissenting voices in “The Covid Science Wars – Shutting down scientific debate is hurting the public health”.

It reads “…attacks have caused serious reputational harm in some cases and led at least a few scientists to self-censor and avoid publishing data that could inform efforts to dampen death rates from both the virus and its remedies.”

Excerpt from the print version of the Stuff article

Dr. Graso suggested that our media has “given in” and just accepted that the Covid response has become sacred, therefore not challenging it.

This differs from my own view that the chicken came before the egg. I believe the media has facilitated a singularly accepted, locked-in narrative. This may have been avoided right from the start if we had investigative reporting and open dialogue about alternative views.

The bias we see has the effect of stifling both free speech and free thought. George Orwell said, “you just have instilled into you the understanding that there are certain things it wouldn’t do to say — and you don’t even think about it anymore. You just don’t talk about it.”

If we do talk about it, our fourth estate (the media) may pull another pink-shirt-hypocrisy stunt. It was Malcolm X who said; “If you’re not careful, the newspapers will have you hating the people who are being oppressed and loving the people who are doing the oppressing.”

Our fifth estate (non-mainstream media and social media) is taking on the role of giving a voice to independent journalists and bloggers, independent websites and groups such as Voices for FreedomCovid Plan B, and other outspoken associations and individuals.

In addition to Dr. Thornley, other courageous and outspoken individuals are able to share their message through the fifth estate media channels. They include lawyer Sue Grey, who continually challenges the legality and morals of the status quo, Dr. Sam Bailey, who creates youtube content with answers to questions unavailable elsewhere, Voices for Freedom, lawyers who consistently challenge the government’s propaganda, Dr. Alison Goodwin and the 40 NZ doctors who signed an open letter of concern regarding the mRNA vaccine and many more.

Predictably, these groups are all subject to ridicule yet persevere at great personal cost. It’s ironic to me that those who follow the easier road – the widely accepted narrative – receive awards such as New Zealander of the year. The difficult road is when we violate social norms and endure the social punishments that entails to speak out about different viewpoints. That’s because, as Dr. Graso says, once an idea becomes moralised it is almost impossible to shift.

One way forward, she says, is to ensure open discourse, that we do not invalidate other people’s fears or concerns and that we engage and recognise concerns – on both sides.

Clearly, our fourth estate does not endorse this or endorse following its own code of conduct. If we had genuine independent investigative reporting in the mainstream media, there may be less dependence on the fifth estate that so many complain about. A direction from the Prime Minister that the government is the “single source of truth” doesn’t promote open discussion of different views either.

To move forward, New Zealanders must decide whether or not the harrowing of dissenting scientists is what we stand for or whether we learn to approach our conundrum of differences in a more pink-shirty kind of way. I believe we can achieve the latter.

What NZ stands for 2015 (survey for flag referendum). The size of the text indicates the number of times the value was referred to by New Zealanders

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