Following updated advice from Australia’s immunisation advisory group, the Federal Government has announced children aged 12 to 15 will be able to book an appointment for the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine from 13 September.
The Pfizer vaccine is currently the only jab recommended for use in Australia for this age group by the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI) after it expanded its advice this morning.
In a statement released today, ATAGI says the benefits of offering COVID-19 vaccination to all younger adolescents outweigh the known or potential risks of the jab.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison today said ATAGI’s latest advice gives the Government confidence to expand vaccine eligibility from 13 September.
“We’ll allow that to commence, and then on the 13th of September people will be able to make those bookings,” Morrison said.
“Principally I’ll see that happening through the GP network, and that provides the opportunity for family vaccinations - for the family to go along together across those age groups.”
ATAGI recently recommended vaccination using Pfizer for adolescents with specific medical conditions, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders and those in remote communities, but today’s decision expands it to the balance of the population.
The Group says there is high-level evidence indicating strong immunogenicity and vaccine efficacy against symptomatic COVID-19 in adolescents from clinical trials of Comirnaty (Pfizer) and Spikevax (Moderna).
In results of an ongoing phase III Comirnaty trial with over 2,000 participants aged 12-15 years, vaccine efficacy against symptomatic COVID-19 from seven days after dose two was 100 per cent.
After dose one and before dose two, there were three COVID-19 cases (within 11 days after dose one) among Comirnaty recipients compared with 12 cases in the placebo group resulting in vaccine efficacy of 75 per cent.
“Vaccinating adolescents is anticipated to prevent SARS-CoV-2 infections, hospitalisations and deaths due to COVID-19, and other complications such as Paediatric Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome Temporally associated with SARS-CoV-2 (PIMS-TS) and long COVID-19,” ATAGI said.
“Although the severity of COVID-19 is less in adolescents (with approximately 4-7 per cent experiencing severe outcomes) compared with adults, adolescents appear to have infection rates similar to adults.
“The SARS-CoV-2 Delta Variant of Concern (VoC) has demonstrated increased transmissibility across all age groups and is associated with an increased risk of developing COVID-19 for adolescents in the absence of vaccination. Potential new VoCs may also pose a greater risk to non-immune children and adolescents in the future.”
In addition, ATAGI anticipates vaccinating adolescents will contribute to a reduction in SARS-CoV-2 transmission in the broader population.
“Once a large proportion of adults are vaccinated, susceptible children and adolescents will account for a higher proportion of continued infections in the community contributing to transmission. This has been seen in countries such as Israel and the USA,” ATAGI said.
“While there is some uncertainty regarding the relative contribution by adolescents to the transmission of SARS-CoV-2 in the wider community, studies published in 2020 exploring SARS-CoV-2 spread within family clusters have reported children as index cases in about 4 per cent of households.”
ATAGI says other benefits of vaccination include reduced disruption to education by preventing transmission and outbreaks in schools, as well as less disruption to sports and other organised activities.
NSW reports 882 new COVID-19 cases
The announcement comes as NSW today reported 882 new locally acquired COVID-19 cases, of which more than 80 per cent were in Western and Southwestern Sydney.
Two more deaths were also recorded - both men with underlying health conditions who had received one vaccine dose.
NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian welcomed the announcement from the Federal Government about expanding Pfizer eligibility to 12 to 15-year-olds.
"We're really looking forward to transitioning children back to face-to-face learning,” Berejiklian said.
“We know what a difficult time this is, and we thank everybody - all the community groups and stakeholders who have been working with Education and Health to ensure the safety of our students, teaching staff and parents during this difficult time.”
NSW Health authorities also reported there are more cases than they would like to see in the LGA of Camden and the rest of the Penrith LGA where tighter restrictions are not already in place.
"There could be a chance that those areas could be designated local government areas of concern," Berejiklian said.
Currently there are 12 Penrith suburbs - Caddens, Claremont Meadows, Colyton, Erskine Park, Kemps Creek, Kingswood, Mount Vernon, North St Marys, Orchard Hills, Oxley Park, St Clair, and St Mary’s - that are listed as areas of concern.
“We're just asking everybody in Camden, and the rest of the Penrith local government area just to be extra careful, just to continue to do the right thing, make sure you come forward and get vaccinated to ensure that you can continue the way you are in the foreseeable future," the Premier said.
Meanwhile, Victoria today reported 79 new locally acquired COVID-19 cases, of which at least 19 were in quarantine during their infectious period.
The State also announced today that it will implement a new departing hotel quarantine permit for those who completed hotel quarantine interstate, with a requirement they be tested on day 17 and a strong recommendation for testing on day 21.
Updated at 11.22am AEST on 27 August 2021.
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