Plea to allow COVID vaccines for immunocompromised children currently denied shot

A Wellington mum is calling for COVID vaccines to be authorised for immunocompromised children.

A third vaccine is now available to people aged over 12 with lower immune systems but children under 12 rely on others to be vaccinated to protect them.

In 2016, when she was two years old, Lily Leadbetter became the youngest New Zealander to have a heart transplant.

Now she's eight and doing great, but COVID has brought a new risk.

"I'm a little bit worried," she told Newshub. "Children like me can die from COVID as well."

She relies on immunosuppressants to protect her heart, but they also leave her with a weakened immune system.

Living with COVID isn't an option for Lily. For her mum, Veronika Klingler, it's a terrifying prospect.

"We do know that the life expectancy is already shorter, right, or that she might need another transplant, but for me knowing that she might be at risk of dying because of a disease like that is preventable if she could access the vaccine, that's very scary and it hits you because I can't do anything, I can't keep her safe from it."

Just going to school is a risk, and going to the park and birthday parties are currently off the list.

There are tens of thousands of immunocompromised New Zealanders. Those over 12, who may not build sufficient immunity from just two vaccine doses, can now access a third shot.

But Lily is too young to even have one. Veronika wants Pfizer authorised for at-risk children.

"I would love for Lily to be able to protect herself and not rely on others."

She says she doesn't judge others who may be hesitant but hopes they come to a decision to get vaccinated and supports restrictions if they don't.

"People have choice, if you choose not to be vaccinated, that's fair enough.  But there's a price to pay for it."

For children like Lily, who don't yet have a choice, the price is far higher. The reason she wants people to get vaccinated is simple.

"So then we can be all together and do some fun stuff," she says.

She just wants to live life to the full.