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ATAGI gives green light to Pfizer for at-risk children as young as 12


Jolyon Attwooll


2/08/2021 5:13:21 PM

The RACGP has backed the decision, which marks the first time Australia’s vaccine rollout has opened to children under 16.

Needle in Pfizer vial
At-risk Australian children as young as 12 will officially be eligible for the Pfizer vaccine from 9 August. (Image: AAP)

RACGP President Dr Karen Price has welcomed a decision by the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI) to permit the Pfizer vaccine to be administered to at-risk children aged 12–15 from 9 August.
 
Federal Health Minister Health Greg Hunt announced the decision on Monday afternoon, the first time the COVID-19 vaccine rollout has opened up to children under 16.
 
‘For 12–15-year-olds, as foreshadowed just over a week ago, the Pfizer vaccine will now be made available on ATAGI’s advice for immunocompromised children, or children with underlying medical conditions, Indigenous children and children in remote communities,’ he told reporters.
 
Minister Hunt said the recommendation will be relevant to approximately 220,000 children, and that vaccination is likely to open up to the entire age group later this year.
 
‘ATAGI did signal they would continue in two phases right from the outset,’ he said. ‘They identified there was a significantly greater risk for the immunocompromised or with underlying medical conditions.
 
‘They are also reviewing international evidence with regards to the broader age group. They have signalled that would be approximately four to six weeks from now.’
 
Dr Price described the decision to allow Pfizer to be given to at-risk 12–15-year-olds as a ‘positive step’.
 
‘GPs will, as always, be guided by the health experts when it comes to vaccinating children and this vaccine is being delivered to children in this age bracket in numerous countries worldwide,’ Dr Price said.
 
‘Across Australia, there will be case-by-case discussions between GPs, children and their parents or carers based on individual risk and benefits – this is shared decision-making.
 
‘It is a sound approach to prioritise children who identify as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander, or those from rural and remote areas, or with underlying medical conditions, including being immunocompromised.
 
‘We know some children, such as those with underlying medical conditions, are most at risk of severe effects if they contract COVID-19 so it’s vital that they are put at the front of this queue.’
 
The Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) last month confirmed its view that the Pfizer vaccine is safe to administer to children as young as 12.
 
That decision then went to ATAGI to establish priority groups within that age group. Eligible children will be included under phase 1b of the Federal Government’s vaccine rollout.
 
In an official announcement, Minister Hunt confirmed the eligible groups aged 12–15:

  • Children with specified medical conditions that increase their risk of severe COVID-19, including severe asthma, diabetes, obesity, cardiac and circulatory congenital anomalies, neuro developmental disorders, epilepsy, immunocompromised and trisomy 21
  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children
  • All children aged 12–15 years in remote communities, as part of broader community outreach vaccination programs that provide vaccines for all ages (≥12 years)
‘The children who are being offered vaccination when this program starts are the children who are at the greatest risk,’ Australia’s Deputy Chief Medical Officer Professor Michael Kidd said.
 
‘I just wanted to reiterate this includes children with specified medical conditions that increase their risk of severe disease if they get infected with COVID-19.’
 
Parents of eligible children have been advised they should check the COVID-19 eligibility checker from 9 August to book in their child’s vaccination.
 
The Department of Health press release said children in remote Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities can receive the vaccine prior to 9 August where in-reach vaccination is taking place.
 
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