Children could be next in line for COVID-19 vaccination

As several countries start to get a handle on vaccinating adults against COVID-19, many are now turning their attention to vaccinating children - and that includes New Zealand.

Medsafe is looking at the age group of 12 to 15-year-olds while China has just approved vaccines for children as young as three.

Minister for COVID-19 Response Chris Hipkins says it's in the works.

"Medsafe has been going through the process of 12-to-16 or 12-15-year-olds, which we've signalled before and we'll have more to say about that shortly."

Keeping in line with New Zealand's vaccine rollout to date, it seems we're taking a cautious approach.

"As the research from Pfizer gets to us that indicates efficacy and safety for lower age groups, Medsafe will consider that and then we follow Medsafe's guidance on which age groups should have access to the vaccine."

Otago University Professor of Public Health Michael Baker agrees there's no rush.

"In New Zealand we don't have to make the decision about vaccinating children yet because we've got high priority groups like border workers, who are way ahead of children," he told Newshub.

The conversation around vaccinating kids is ramping up as other countries, including the US and China, have already started.

The US is conducting a nationwide trial of the Pfizer vaccine for children under 12.

China has just approved children as young as three to receive the vaccine and the UK has just approved the Pfizer vaccine for 12 to 15-year-olds.

Closer to home, Australia's now considering including young people after three children caught COVID in the latest Melbourne outbreak.

Research shows children are at lower risk of serious symptoms but they can pass on COVID.

Prof Baker expects a decision will be made late this year and it could be a hard one to make. 

"The ethical thing to do would be when we're getting to the point where we've protected our vulnerable people to start diverting vaccine to countries where it's a matter of life or death."

Just 10 percent of the world's population has been vaccinated so far - children may not yet be the priority.