91 cases, protesters descend on Parliament, jabs for kids get green light from Medsafe

NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Thu, 16 Dec 2021, 12:41pm
Protesters head down Lambton Quay on their way to Parliament. Photo / Mark Mitchell
Protesters head down Lambton Quay on their way to Parliament. Photo / Mark Mitchell

91 cases, protesters descend on Parliament, jabs for kids get green light from Medsafe

NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Thu, 16 Dec 2021, 12:41pm

There are 91 cases of Covid-19 in the community today. 

Of those, 55 are in Auckland, seven are in the Waikato, 10 are in the Bay of Plenty, one is in the Lakes district and 16 are in Taranaki. 

As of 1pm today, there are 58 people remaining in hospital. 

Of those in hospital, nine are at North Shore, 27 are at Auckland City, 17 are at Middlemore, two are at Waikato, two are in Tauranga and one is in Christchurch. 

The Ministry of Health said it was pleased to reach the 90 per cent of New Zealanders vaccinated milestone, in a statement released this afternoon. 

Jabs for 5-11yos get green light 

Medsafe has just granted provisional approval for the Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine for children aged 5 to 11 years old. 

Medsafe Group Manager, Chris James, said the Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine for this age group is an adapted version of the vaccine used for people aged 12 and older. The provisional approval is for two doses of the paediatric Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine, given at least 21 days apart. 

"The Medsafe team has worked tirelessly this year to ensure that Covid-19 vaccine applications are prioritised and urgently reviewed, while still maintaining the same scrutiny that all medicine applications undergo before they can be approved," James said. 

"Medsafe will only approve a vaccine or medicine for use in New Zealand once it is satisfied that it has met high standards for quality, safety and efficacy." 

The Ministry of Health's National Immunisation Programme Director, Astrid Koornneef, said work was underway to prepare for the potential rol-lout of the paediatric Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine in New Zealand. 

"Medsafe approval is the first step in the process, and the COVID-19 Vaccine Technical Advisory Group is now providing advice to the Ministry of Health to inform Cabinet's decision whether to use the vaccine in New Zealand," Koornneef said. 

"If Cabinet agrees to use the vaccine in New Zealand, we want to have systems in place to roll out the vaccine safely and efficiently, at the earliest opportunity. This means completing the necessary training and working with the community to roll out the vaccine, including through whānau-based approaches." 

If approved by Cabinet, the rollout of the paediatric Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine is expected to start in New Zealand no later than the end of January 2022. 

How cases will be reported 

From today the Ministry of Health changed the way it gathers and releases the daily case 1pm updates. 

This includes changing the time frames which daily case numbers cover. It is now going to a model to cover from midnight to midnight, as opposed to the previous 9am-9am model. 

Today's numbers were expected to be lower, with the first day of the new system only covering a 15-hour period. 

Meanwhile vaccine mandate protesters arrived at Parliament shortly after midday after a march led by dozens of motorbike riders revving their engines.  

They arrived chanting "you serve us" and "show your face" - but Parliament finished for the year yesterday and most MPs are not in the building today.  

Police numbers at Parliament's forecourt have nearly doubled, with about 50 officers now guarding the entrance.  

Protesters from the Freedom and Rights Coalition gathered in Wellington's Civic Square this morning and started a march to Parliament just after 11am.  

They are protesting against the traffic light system, vaccine mandates and the Government's plan to vaccinate under-12s from next year.  

Covid has now claimed 48 lives in this country after a patient's death in Tauranga Hospital yesterday.  

There were 74 new cases yesterday; Auckland (56), Waikato (9), Bay of Plenty (7), Lakes (1) and Canterbury (1).  

Sixty-one people were in hospital, including four in ICU. Of those being treated in hospital, 11 are in North Shore, 24 in Auckland, 22 in Middlemore, two in Waikato, one in Tauranga and one in Christchurch.  

Auckland's border restrictions were also lifted yesterday, while Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern had previously warned more cases would now pop up around the country.  

The traffic out of Auckland yesterday was relatively free-flowing, but the roads were expected to get busier as schools finish for the year and Christmas draws near.  

Of the Eltham cases, 11 were confirmed as pupils who attend Eltham Primary School.  

South Taranaki mayor Phil Nixon said the cases were all in the same class.  

So far, there were no adults infected, but Nixon said he was expecting the number to rise.  

"There's a big feeling of apprehension around the town at the moment. We're in orange, but people have started to social distance and take their own precautions. People are pretty worried."  

Eltham Primary School, which has a roll of about 150 students, is now closed for the remainder of the year.  

The school's final day for the year was on Tuesday, with students coming together for a Christmas performance, posted to the school's social media pages.  

Eltham gym, Hydras, is linked to the outbreak.  

In a post on its Facebook page, it confirmed a person with Covid trained at the gym on Monday 6, Wednesday 8 and Friday, December 10.  

The gym was now closed for sanitation and for things to "settle".  

Māori Party co-leader Debbie Ngarewa-Packer wasn't expecting the outbreak to slow down anytime soon.  

"We are above 20 confirmed and probable cases now. I don't think we will be seeing the back of this for some time to come," she said yesterday.  

The initial 11 cases from Eltham Primary School were detected via saliva testing operated by two local iwi, in place in the town on Sunday. Ngarewa-Packer said chances are a number of the cases wouldn't have been identified if saliva testing wasn't readily available.  

"These kids don't like the idea of a big stick up their nose. Saliva testing probably really helped getting them out here."