Coronavirus: Government reassures hesitant parents Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine is safe

The Government is reassuring hesitant parents and caregivers that it is safe for teenagers to get the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine.

It comes after Medsafe gave conditional approval for the vaccine for 12 to 15-year-olds earlier on Monday. The next step is for the Government to review advice from the Ministry of Health about the 'decision to use', and the outcome is expected next week. Until that decision is made, 12 to 15-year-olds won't be given the jab.

Lower Hutt mother-of-three Shelley Shaw is concerned about the speed at which the vaccine has been approved. Two of her children, 15-year-old Cameron and 13-year-old Maddi, may soon be able to get vaccinated.

"I just feel like everything is happening so quickly. I need to see the evidence that I can give it to my children safely," she says.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says the Medsafe approval is a win.

"The more New Zealanders vaccinated, the stronger our population immunity," she said on Monday.

There are about 260,000 Kiwis in the 12 to 15-year-old age bracket.

"We've got enough vaccines coming into the country that everyone - including this group if that's where the final advice lands - will be able to receive a vaccination this year," she adds.

Even if they're eligible, they'll still need their parents' approval, and many like Shaw are hesitant.

Coronavirus: Government reassures hesitant parents Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine is safe
Photo credit: Getty Images

A survey of caregivers for children in that age group showed just over half said they'd definitely or likely allow their child to be vaccinated. While 19 percent weren't sure, 10 percent said they're unlikely to let them get jabbed. A further 16 percent said their child is definitely not getting it - that's up 6 percent on the previous month.

Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield reassured parents the vaccine is safe.

"I would be encouraging parents, just as they are for themselves, to inform themselves so they can make the right decision," he says.

"I wouldn't ask of any parent what I wouldn't do myself," Ardern added. 

The Vaccine Technical Advisory Group will meet on Tuesday to weigh up the pros and cons of rolling the vaccine out to this group before Cabinet finally decides whether to hit go next Monday.

Newshub spoke to a pediatrician who specialises in immunisations. She said while it's good to get the Medsafe tick, teenagers shouldn't be the priority.

Their infection rates are extremely low, and she says the Government should concentrate on those most at risk from COVID-19.