COVID-19: Pfizer's ability to manufacture paediatric vaccines to meet demand will be a challenge - Ashley Bloomfield

Questions are being asked about when the Government will firm up supplies of paediatric vaccines with an application from Pfizer due any day now.

Last week the US health regulator authorised the Pfizer BioNTech vaccine for children aged five to 11 years - the first COVID-19 shot for young children in the United States.

Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield said an application from Pfizer to Medsafe was expected in the next two weeks.

"Our teams are already gathering the published research, anything that they can get their hands on, but they can't put a provisional approval forward or make a recommendation around that until they've had a formal application from Pfizer."

National Party COVID-19 response spokesperson Chris Bishop said with approval looming, details of actual supply should be a sure thing by now.

"It's really important that we get on an order the vaccine supply for five to 11-year-olds and frankly it's outrageous that we haven't yet.

"I was told last week in Parliament by Chris Hipkins, that he understood that our contract with Pfizer allows us to order them, so we should be doing that ASAP, and we should be trying to make sure we can roll out the vaccine to five to 11-year-olds before Christmas."

However vaccinologist and Auckland University associate professor Helen Petousis-Harris was not so sure a mass rollout was required - or feasible - this side of Christmas.

"I think it would be really good to have the paediatric vaccine available. I think there's probably some groups that you might want to prioritise, but perhaps we can be a little bit less urgent about about getting it out to those age groups.

"There's lots of discussions, I think, that have to have to happen first."

She did not think a mass vaccine rollout was likely before the end of the year.

"I don't see a situation where we're going to be having it available to us anyway and I don't think we've really got the mechanisms in place to deploy it widely at the moment.

"So I think we've got a little bit of time and I suspect there's a lot more conversations to happen in the new year."

Dr Bloomfield said while authorities were "in the room" when it came to supply talks, the timing could be an issue.

"The challenge will be the ability of Pfizer to manufacture them to meet the demand, not just here but of course, globally.

"It seems that they have manufactured enough for the USA so far but we won't know until they put the application [in] and we have ongoing discussions with them about the timing of availability here but believe me, we are absolutely in the room with [them] having those discussions."

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern added in the past it was not clear the vaccine for five to 11-year-olds was a different mix to the one used for the eligible population.

"Some of the original data that was released didn't necessarily make it clear that new doses would need to be manufactured. There was some discussion over whether or not it was simply a paediatric dose of the original vaccination.

"We'll have greater clarity on some of the differences will the differential between those vaccines once Medsafe receives that data.

Ministry of Health vaccination data showed for the current outbreak 709 cases - or 20 percent - were children aged 12 and under who could not be vaccinated.

Of that age group, 1.7 percent - or 12 cases - have been hospitalised.