Parents opposing vaccine rollout for tamariki claim it will lead to 'bullying, exclusion'

By Contributor

Above: Supporters outside the High Court in Wellington, where a group of parents are trying to stop the vaccine rollout to 5 to 11-year-olds. Photo / Jack Crossland



By Hazel Osborne, Open Justice multimedia journalist, Pōneke

A group of parents opposing the vaccine rollout for kids claim it will lead to bullying, exclusion from activities, and deny their sons and daughters childhood joys.

The eight parents - whose names are suppressed - are suing the government to try to urgently stop the Covid-19 vaccine rollout for children aged 5 to 11.

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 and 11.

Their case is before the High Court in Wellington today, where their lawyers are arguing for a judicial review on the basis that the provisional consent process for the children's 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.

Their statement of claim was filed in the High Court on January 14 against Health Minister Andrew Little, Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins and the head of Medsafe - three days before children became eligible for the vaccine in New Zealand.

Since then, more than 110,000 Kiwi kids have received their first dose of the Pfizer vaccine.

During today's proceedings, some of the parents' affidavits were read aloud in court. They fear current Covid restrictions placed on vaccinated adults will become common for children, including vaccine passports and exclusion from venues.

One applicant, a mother of an 11-year-old girl with a heart condition and genetic syndrome, says her child will be unable to attend netball or swimming lessons.

Another applicant says she fears her son will be excluded from sports. "This is simply not a normal life for a child," she said.

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.

Supporters outside the High Court in Wellington, where a group of parents are trying to stop the vaccine rollout to 5 to 11-year-olds. Photo / Jack Crossland

Above: Supporters outside the High Court in Wellington, where a group of parents are trying to stop the vaccine rollout to 5 to 11-year-olds. Photo / Jack Crossland

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 NZ 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.

About two-thirds of parents surveyed said they would get their kids vaccinated and there has been high demand since the rollout began.