NSW CHO Backs Vaccinating Under-18s

NSW Chief Health Officer Kerry Chant has expressed her support for mass vaccination of Australian teenagers. Dr Chant expressed her views at the press conference on Wednesday morning.

“I firmly believe we need to get in and vaccinate our 12 to 15 year-olds,” said Chant. “At the moment, we’ve vaccinated 16 year-olds. I am really keen to get in to the 12 to 15 year-olds personally, and I await the advice around that.”

Currently, PM Scott Morrison’s four-phase sketch of the path to re-opening does not include vaccinating under-18s. This is despite Pfizer vaccine trial data for 12 to 15 year-olds having been published in March, and US Food and Drug Administration approval following in May.

Earlier this month, ATAGI (Australian Technical Advisory Group on Vaccines) recommended 12 to 15 year-olds who are indigenous or have underlying medical conditions be vaccinated. The board is reportedly currently evaluating a recommendation to vaccinate all teenagers.

But with little public awareness of the change and adults already waiting months for a vaccine appointment, meaningful change has not occurred.

“We obviously always follow the advice of ATAGI,” said Dr Chant on Wednesday morning. “I think we need to respect the scientific approach, but as I said, personally I believe that we will be targeting school-aged children, particularly the high school-aged very quickly, because we know they do contribute to transmission.”

In Morrison’s usual fashion, he is now quietly shifting position on under-18s’ vaccination. The PM said yesterday that school vaccination is “not too far away,” while sidestepping offering any policy detail.

Senator Gallagher’s teenage daughter tests positive

Adding to the pressure, Labor Senator Katy Gallagher’s daughter has tested positive to Covid-19. Gallagher, Chair of the Senate’s Covid-19 committee, told ABC Radio her daughter is “pretty sick” and has “a lot of Covid symptoms.”

Gallagher is caring for her in their family home. “I’m doing most of the care,” she said. “I’m in full face shield, masks, gloves. disinfectant. It’s quite a palaver and it’s quite scary for her as well.” While Gallagher and her husband are vaccinated, the pair have an unvaccinated 16 year-old son, who they fear for. 

Katy Gallagher in the Senate.

The current consensus is that the delta variant of SARS-CoV-2 affects young people much worse than previous iterations of the coronavirus. In Victoria, of the 246 active cases, 56 are in children aged under nine and 55 in children aged between 10 and 19.

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