Australia’s health minister has reassured parents their kids as young as twelve can get the Covid-19 vaccine safely, despite a shock warning from UK health advisers.
Greg Hunt insists the expansion of the vaccination rollout to ages 12-15 is based on the best health advice and will allow thousands of students in lockdown to return to the classroom sooner.
The reassurance comes after Australia’s Therapeutic Goods Administration granted provisional approval for the Moderna jab to be given to ages 12-17 on Saturday.
The recent decision to extend jabs to teens goes against recommendations by the British Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation.
Melbourne teen Luka Wain (right) and brother Darcy (left) were among thousands of teens who received the Pfizer jab last week
While the organisation admits vaccination benefits are marginally greater than the potential known harms, it considers the margin of benefit to vaccinate healthy teens too small.
‘For otherwise healthy 12 to 15 year old children, their risk of severe Covid-19 disease is small and therefore the potential for benefit from Covid-19 vaccination is also small,’ JCVI Covid-19 Immunisation chair Professor Wei Shen Lim said on Friday.
‘The JCVI ‘s view is that overall, the health benefits from COVID-19 vaccination to healthy children aged 12 to 15 years are marginally greater than the potential harms.’
He conceded teens with underlying health conditions that put them at higher risk of severe Covid should be offered Covid-19 vaccination.
Health ministers in the UK have since written to chief medical officers requesting further details.
The aim of getting ages 12-15 vaccinated allow thousands students in lockdown to return to the classroom sooner (pictured, a Melbourne student getting vaccinated)
Mr Hunt said Moderna and Pfizer will ‘offer the best protection possible’ to ages 12-17.
‘Australians parents can be confident in the decisions taken by, in our view, the best medical regulators in the world, the TGA and ATAGI,’ he told Sydney Morning Herald.
‘This is an important next step, vaccinations for all 12 to 15-year-olds will open on September 13 and have already been available for immunocompromised children, children with disabilities and indigenous kids from early August.’
The first one million doses of Moderna will arrive on Australia’s shores later this month.
The vaccine requires two doses 28 days apart and latest data from the US shows it is 93 per cent effective against Covid-19 infection, 98 per cent effective against severe disease, and 100 per cent effective against death.
Teens and their parents who soon have a choice between Pfizer and Moderns (pictured a pop up vaccination clinic in Sydney)
Moderna has also received regulatory approval for ages 12-17 in the UK, Canada, the European Union and Switzerland.
The dosage intervals are the same regardless of the age of the recipient.
The jab uses the same mRNA technology as the Pfizer vaccine and is not linked to the rare blood clots caused by the AstraZeneca vaccine.
‘Provisional approval for use in the 12-17 years age group has been made following careful evaluation of the available data supporting safety and efficacy,’ a statement by the TGA on Saturday said.
‘The agreement includes the supply of 10 million doses of Spikevax (elasomeran) in 2021 and of 15 million doses of Moderna’s updated variant booster vaccine in 2022.’
Health Minister Greg Hunt (pictured) has assured parents that extending vaccines to ages 12-15 is safe and is based on the best health advice
Mr Hunt added: ‘Australia has an advance purchase agreement with Moderna to secure 25 million doses of the vaccine – 10 million this year and 15 million of booster vaccines in 2022, with the first doses arriving later this month.
The Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation will advise next week on how the Moderna product for children should be incorporated in the vaccine program.
‘The approval was based on evidence of strong ability for these vaccines to raise just as good, if not stronger, immunological responses as it does in young adults and older groups,’ the TGA’s John Skerritt told reporters on Saturday.