Parents have welcomed news their children will soon be eligible for a Covid vaccine, but the federal government has been warned young adults must remain the priority.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Friday confirmed parents will be able to book the Pfizer jab for their 12 to 15 year old children from September 13, after it was was granted provisional approval from the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation.
Health Minister Greg Hunt was optimistic about uptake in the cohort, with increased Pfizer supply and work also underway to approve the Moderna vaccine.
"We are in a position to ensure that all children and all families who seek their children to be vaccinated between the ages of 12 to 15, will be able to do so this year," he said on Friday.
Canberra father-of-two Chris Sheedy was thrilled to hear his 15-year-old son Sam would soon be eligible for the jab.
"The top minds in Australia say it is safe. My only concern now is how long it's going to take. I'll be booking as soon as possible," he said.
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Mr Sheedy said Sam, an avid soccer player, was eager to get vaccinated to get back on the pitch. He said fears over teenagers being hospitalised had also circulated among Sam's friends.
"I recently got my second shot. On my phone now I have this pretty little green certificate that says I'm fully-vaccinated. Sam was quite envious when he saw that and he wants one," he said.
"The research shows Covid gives [teenagers] brain fog and low moods.
"I thought: good god, with teenage boys, I've already got enough of their brain fog and low moods. I don't need more of that, so it protects me as well!"
But paediatric infectious diseases physician at Westmead's Children's Hospital Philip Britton warned against shifting focus from vaccinating the 20 to 39 age bracket, particularly in disadvantaged communities.
"It's those young adults who are still bringing the infection into their households," he said.
"If we get vaccines to advantaged children at the expense of efforts to get vaccines into the arms of 20- to 40-year-olds, that would be a major concern from the child health perspective.
"[In] the family of four with three children under 12, the most important thing is for the adults in that house to be vaccinated, not the 12-year-old."
Pfizer was provisionally approved for 12- to 15-year-old immunocompromised children, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children, and children in remote areas earlier this month. But Dr Britton said there was no evidence it was more dangerous to children outside those categories.
He said that although the vaccine was more effective at minimising severe Covid symptoms, the predominant benefit of vaccinating children was reducing transmission in schools.
"It is reducing risk. That, coupled with vaccinating teachers, is really what we need to give people the sense of confidence to get kids back to school," he said.
Less than half of Australians over 50 were fully vaccinated, though 77.6 per cent had received a first dose. Another 307,090 doses were administered on Thursday, taking the total uptick over the past week to just under 1.9 million.
Australia's path out of Covid restrictions was based on Doherty Institute modelling, outlining new stages to be triggered at 70 and 80 per cent vaccination of the 16 and over population.
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But the Prime Minister rejected calls for 12- to 15-year-olds to now be folded into the targets, despite pressure from some jurisdictions, particularly the ACT.
"The target is about the overall level of vaccination in the adult population, who are the primary transmitters of the virus. That's the science," he said on Friday.
"There is no recommendation from any of our medical health advisors to [include children in the targets], and so I don't see the point of that. What I see the point of doing is vaccinating children."
While the states would determine whether and when to open their mass vaccination hubs up to children, Mr Morrison expected initial vaccination to take place via the existing GP network.
"That provides the opportunity for family vaccinations, for the family to go along together across those age groups," he said.
Announcing the updated advice on Friday, ATAGI said a trial of 2000 participants produced "high level evidence" the vaccine was effective in 12- to 15-year-olds.
That included an 100 per cent effectiveness against symptoms seven days after children received their second dose. The first dose proved 75 per cent effective, ATAGI said.
It conceded there was uncertainty over teenagers' role in transmitting Covid, but said the virus would increasingly target younger people with a higher proportion of adults vaccinated.
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