By Jake McKee of RNZ
The clock is ticking for the Government to get children aged 5 to 11 vaccinated against Covid-19.
Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins said yesterday he expected advice from Medsafe in a couple of weeks and the rollout should start in late January.
But some are urging officials to move faster as a number of schools shut down for days because of infected students or staff.
One father, Martyn, was anxious because he wanted his 10-year-old daughter to be safe at school. She had underlying health conditions and was at high-risk of becoming seriously ill if she caught Covid-19.
Martyn wants his daughter, and the other children at her school, fully vaccinated before the 2022 year starts, so beginning the rollout in late January was not good enough.
"The school year is end of January, early February. From all the information we're being fed by the Government about how the first dose takes a period of time to be partially effective, and you factor that into the timetable that's been announced, it just doesn't work," he said.
"There's certainly no option for a second dose in there for paediatric groups."
Instead, Martyn had been left with more questions.
"Is there going to be, like in the rest of the general population, a priority or high-risk groups if we can't get through the whole school population by the start of term?"
Pakuranga Heights School in Auckland closed for almost a week last month after a pupil tested positive for the virus.
Principal Fintan Kelly is keen on children being vaccinated but said the end of January did not give schools much time to prepare.
"What would be really useful is really clear guidance from the Ministry of Education, and Health, in terms of their expectations."
Kelly "absolutely" wanted that guidance as soon as possible.
New Zealand Educational Institute president Liam Rutherford agreed, saying schools needed the advice before Christmas if officials wanted the rollout to start in line with the school year.
"Schools are definitely in planning mode for 2022 right now."
He thought there was some sense to vaccinations happening at school.
But he warned immunising thousands of children would undoubtedly be disruptive to the school day.
"First and foremost we need to go about keeping people safe, and if getting children vaccinated is the best way to keep them safe then the education sector will be adaptable and we'll deal with the disruption."
Immunology professor and Malaghan Institute director Graham Le Gros said children needed to be vaccinated because there could be "quite serious consequences" if the virus was allowed to "run riot".
He said "for an immunologist", a late January rollout was "not soon enough when we've got a virus knocking on our door".
"We just need to get rid of it and protect against it so as soon as possible please authorities; Medsafe and the Government."