New Zealand's expected rollout of paediatric Covid-19 vaccines to children in the New Year should get off on a positive note.
Doses for children aged 5 to 11 are being administered overseas and are expected to get the green light here. Covid Response Minister Chris Hipkins has said that the programme, depending on Medsafe approval, could begin in mid-January. The Pfizer/BioNTech dose for children is about a third of the one for adults.
The good news for parents is that the real-world medical data on the jabs for kids is reassuring.
About five million children in the 5 to 11 age group have been vaccinated in the United States.
The director of the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, Dr Rochelle Walensky, says monitoring of the rollout has confirmed the vaccines are safe for children.
The most important finding is that the CDC, as of last weekend, hadn't uncovered problems with temporary heart inflammation. Myocarditis is known to be a potential but rare side effect of the mRNA vaccines in teens.
"We haven't seen anything yet," Walensky said. "We have an incredibly robust vaccine safety system, and so if [problems] were there, we would find it."
An Israeli study reports that the vaccine is causing fewer side effects for young children than for teens or adults.
The US has been using the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine for kids since early November but there has been some resistance in the country to it. Less than one in five children in the age group has received a first dose. A poll showed that two-thirds of parents of primary school children in the US did not want to vaccinate their children or are delaying it.
A survey here last week revealed that about a third of parents are uncertain or reluctant to get young children vaccinated. Fifty-seven per cent of Māori caregivers said they would get doses for their children.
The potential extra threat of the Omicron variant on top of Delta and the looming next school year might change some minds and increase uptake.
Anxiety is understandable, but polled attitudes to the general coronavirus vaccine have evolved over time and the vast majority of New Zealanders have had two doses of it, despite any initial misgivings or nerves.
Early on in the pandemic, concern was more focused on the elderly, who were among the earliest groups prioritised to get vaccines. But during Delta's dominance children around the world have become sick, ended up in hospital, and in some cases died.
As of Monday, the Delta outbreak here had included 1943 confirmed infections involving children aged up to 9 - that's 20 per cent of all cases. Of them, 35 have had to be hospitalised. Maori have made up 4464 (45 per cent) of cases, including 191 (39 per cent) of those treated in hospital.
Director general of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield has said there will be a major early effort to vaccinate Māori and Pacific youngsters.
"The key reason for that is they tend to live in bigger households. And we know that household size does have a real impact on kids being infected inside the house."
Time is of the essence with Delta around and Omicron knocking at the door.