ATAGI approves Moderna vaccine for at-risk young children

Jolyon Attwooll

3/08/2022 2:52:24 PM

Parents are advised not to contact vaccine providers until bookings open, following decision to approve vaccination for the youngest cohort.

Moderna vaccine for young children
At-risk young children aged under five can be vaccinated from early September. (Image: AAP Photos)

At-risk children aged from six months to four years are now eligible for the Moderna vaccine following a recommendation by the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI).
According to the Minister for Health and Aged Care Mark Butler, there are around 70,000 young children at higher risk of developing severe illness from COVID-19.
This cohort will be able to receive the Moderna vaccine from 5 September, after the advisory group recommended it for certain at-risk groups, including children with severe immunocompromise, disability and those with complex health conditions.
According to the announcement issued by the Minister’s office, only a ‘small proportion’ of existing vaccination sites will administer the vaccine due to ‘the particular needs of this group of children and the small size of the cohort to be vaccinated’.
The Government also specifically requested that parents wait until the vaccination sites are confirmed before contacting vaccine providers.
It advises that participating sites will be shown on the Vaccine Clinic Finder website later this month, at which point bookings will open.
Those recommended for vaccination include children with the following conditions:

  • Severe primary or secondary immunodeficiency, including those undergoing treatment for cancer, or on immunosuppressive treatments as listed in the ATAGI advice on third primary doses of COVID-19 vaccine in individuals who are severely immunocompromised
  • Bone marrow or stem cell transplant, or chimeric antigen T-cell (CAR-T) therapy
  • Complex congenital cardiac disease
  • Structural airway anomalies or chronic lung disease
  • Type 1 diabetes
  • Chronic neurological or neuromuscular conditions
  • A disability that requires frequent assistance with activities of daily living, such as severe cerebral palsy or Down Syndrome (Trisomy 21).
Two doses are recommended for the primary course, apart for children with severe immunocompromise who require three doses.
The recommended gap between doses is eight weeks.
Expressions of interest for administering the vaccine opened for a short time last month.
The RACGP President Adjunct Professor Karen Price said that practices delivering COVID-19 vaccines would need support.
‘This latest announcement is good news, but it will add another layer of work for practices who have put their hands up to help deliver these vaccines,’ she said.
‘We are already flat out delivering COVID-19 vaccines and influenza vaccines as well as delivering care to people who have delayed consultations and screenings during the pandemic.
‘It is important to keep in mind too that delivering vaccines to children, particularly young children, is more time intensive and complicated compared to adults.’
The vaccine was provisionally approved by the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) for use in Australian children aged six months to under five years last month.
ATAGI has not expanded COVID-19 vaccination for children in the age category who are not at increased risk.
‘These children have a very low likelihood of severe illness from COVID-19,’ ATAGI states.
‘However, this is under ongoing consideration based on data on the disease burden and epidemiology, vaccine supply, emerging data on vaccine use in this age group, and availability of new COVID-19 vaccines for this age group.’
Supply had been raised as a potential issue, with the Minister for Health and Aged Care Mark Butler previously noting the high demand for doses of the paediatric vaccine.
However, in the announcement made on Wednesday, the Minister said that demand for the at-risk group would be met.
‘The Australian Government has secured supplies of this new vaccine for younger children and these vaccines will shortly distributed to vaccination sites,’ the Government announcement reads.
An application by Pfizer for provisional approval for its own COVID-19 vaccine among young children in Australia is also underway.
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