COVID-19: Mother of son with serious heart condition urges Govt to open up vaccinations for children aged 5-11

The mother of a nine-year-old boy with a serious heart condition is urging the Government to take the steps necessary to allow vaccinations for children aged 5-11 in New Zealand once the approval process is complete.

Sarah, her husband and their two sons live in Auckland where the most recent outbreak has seen level 3 and 4 lockdown in place for the last eight weeks.

But now loosened restrictions have been announced for Auckland despite there still being active community cases, Sarah says her youngest, Blake, is in an extremely vulnerable position.

"He would be the one that would end up on a ventilator. I've been there, I've seen him on a ventilator when he's not breathing, it's not nice. I don't wish that on anyone," Sarah told Newshub. 

Blake has a heart condition called Ventricular Septal Defect (VSD) with aortic regurgitation and prolapse of the valve. He will require open-heart surgery at some point in the future.

"There's still those people that refused to get vaccinated, putting everything in harm's way," Sarah explains. 

"Blake is not eligible yet to be vaccinated and that poses a serious risk to his health. Even though all of us are vaccinated, he's still at risk." 

Sarah's husband works in construction while their 12-year-old attends school in Henderson. She is fearful that if one of them pick up the virus, they will be protected but if it's passed on to Blake, his health could be seriously compromised. 

It's intended schools will reopen on 18 October 2021, although this will be confirmed the week beforehand.

In her message to the Government, Sarah made a heartfelt plea to do what is needed to allow the 5-11 age groups to be vaccinated.

"Please look into approving that vaccine. Trials have been amazing so far, please look into it - all good that everyone else is vaccinated but that section of people that will not get vaccinated are putting everyone in harm's way. Please look at it, keep our kids safe."

It's intended schools will reopen on 18 October 2021, although this will be confirmed the week beforehand.
It's intended schools will reopen on 18 October 2021, although this will be confirmed the week beforehand. Photo credit: Getty Images.

Pharmaceutical company Pfizer submitted data results to the US Food and Drug Administration this week.

Over the next few weeks, the FDA will work to review that the datasets are accurate as well as the possibility for vaccine authorisation for 5-11 year-olds. 

For the age group, Pfizer tested a third of the amount that’s in each shot given now. Dr Bill Gruber, Pfizer senior vice president, told The Associated Press after their second dose, children were able to develop coronavirus-fighting antibody levels just as strong as teenagers and young adults. 

"We are pleased to be able to submit data to regulatory authorities for this group of school-aged children before the start of the winter season," said Dr Uğur Şahin, CEO and co-founder of BioNTech. "The safety profile and immunogenicity data in children aged 5 to 11 years vaccinated at a lower dose are consistent with those we have observed with our vaccine in other older populations at a higher dose."

The Director-General of Health has previously signalled the Ministry of Health was exploring the possibility of vaccinating children. 

"It's important we vaccinate all our communities," Dr Ashley Bloomfield said. "It's no good if our overall rate is high but there are vulnerable pockets of unvaccinated people."

Data of the current Auckland outbreak shows 245 children under nine have caught the virus, making up nearly 18.1 percent of the overall number of cases. 

They are the third-highest age group, with 301 cases aged between 10-19 (22.2 percent of the total) and 325 aged 20 to 29  (23.9 percent of the total). 

A Ministry spokesperson told Newshub that Medsafe, who approves all medicines and vaccines that are used in New Zealand, has not yet received an application from Pfizer to vary the approval of their COVID-19 vaccine for youth under the age of 12 years. 

"In order for Medsafe to consider whether to grant provisional approval for the Pfizer vaccine for youth under the age of 12, Pfizer must submit an application to Medsafe.

"If and when Pfizer does submit an application, Medsafe will prioritise the assessment of the data for this age group.

"If Medsafe provisionally approves the Pfizer vaccine for young people under 12 year, further clinical and scientific advice will be sought from the COVID-19 Vaccine Technical Advisory Group (CV TAG) before it goes to Cabinet for a 'decision to use'."