A group of parents is suing the Government to urgently stop the Covid-19 vaccine rollout for kids aged 5-11.
From yesterday 476,000 children were eligible for their first dose of the paediatric vaccine and 3200 young people in Auckland had already got the jab shortly after midday.
Despite experts saying the vaccine is extremely safe for children and will protect them against severe outcomes from the virus, eight Kiwi parents - whose names are currently suppressed - are claiming in court that the provisional consent process for the kids' vaccine was flawed and illegal.
They want that consent to be revoked and are trying to get the rollout halted immediately until a full judicial review can be held.
The group includes an electrician, two stay-at-home parents, a service assistant, a quality assurance manager, a company director, a civil engineer, and an unemployed woman. All have children aged between 5-11.
Their statement of claim was filed in the High Court on January 15 by lawyer Clinton Light of Shine Lawyers against Health Minister Andrew Little, Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins and the head of Medsafe.
Director-general of health Dr Ashley Bloomfield told Newstalk ZB's Tim Dower today that he could not comment on the case, which was before the courts.
However he defended Medsafe's advice as "world class" and said he was confident in the information his officials had provided to the Government.
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The group argues that Medsafe's decision to grant provisional consent was flawed for a number of reasons, including that it considered "irrelevant" information about vaccinating children to protect their whānau or stop the spread of Covid in schools.
The health of the children themselves should be the only consideration, the group claims.
It also claims that while Hipkins has said the jab will never be mandatory for children, in practice it will effectively be "quasi-mandatory" because it will probably be required for admission to school camps and other activities.
"Children in this age group and their parents are also likely to be placed under significant governmental and social pressure by others in the community for such children to be vaccinated," the statement of claim says.
The group also claims the therapeutic benefits of the vaccine for 5- to 11-year-olds are not enough to outweigh the risks of harm from the vaccine, given kids are generally at low risk from Covid.
Experts have previously told the Herald that while most children who get Covid have only mild or no symptoms, a few can get very sick.. Covid infection has also left some children with other, serious complications, including multi-inflammatory syndrome and Long Covid.
Clinical trials found the Pfizer vaccine was both extremely safe for children and very effective at stopping them from suffering severe Covid symptoms.
But the group of eight parents has asked for an interim order halting the rollout, ahead of a full judicial review.
Justice Rebecca Ellis has given them until the end of today to make their case for such an order.
The Crown and Pfizer will also have the chance to file evidence before the interim order hearing is held on January 27. A request for the rollout to be stopped before that hearing was declined.
A date for the full judicial review has not been set.
A spokesperson for the Ministry of Health told the Herald that "vaccinations to protect our tamariki are also now underway, and we are working closely with DHBs, hauora and other healthcare providers to support them during the roll-out.
"We have also worked closely with Māori specialists drawn from the Te Ropu Whakakaupapa Urutā (the National Māori Pandemic Group), iwi and the New Zealand Māori Council to co-design a programme for vaccinating our tamariki.
"The Ministry is aware of the statement of claim and will be responding as appropriate through the Court in due course. Until then, we have no further comment".