Vaccinate the Youth

It’s time for a quiz, everyone. Are you ready? Which age group has registered the most cases of Covid-19 in Australia? Is it the 50-59 year-olds? How about the 60-69 year-olds, the 70-79 year-olds, or the 80+ cohort stuck in underfunded nursing homes? 

The correct answer, in fact, is 20-29 year-olds, who have contracted more than three times as many cases as any decile of 60+ years. Even the 10-19 year-olds have caught Covid-19 more than the 60, 70 and 80 year-olds.

Aggregate Covid-19 cases by age group in Australia (via

As we reported in January, Australia’s vaccination “strategy” really did nothing more than parrot the approach already adopted in Europe and North America of vaccinating the very old first. That could have worked out fine, but in actuality it has left young people, the main vectors of the virus, unvaccinated more than six months after vaccine roll-outs began in other wealthy countries. That leaves everyone more exposed than if young people were vaccinated.

Some implications of the data: what a travesty that school-teachers have been left out of the priority category of “frontline worker.” Teachers have an almost household level of exposure to entire communities, and while the virus can easily jump from family to family through the kids themselves, the teachers are copping the worst of it.

The second issue is long-term Covid-19. From UK studies, we know that long-term Covid is significantly underdiagnosed. Between 7 and 17% of Covid-19 cases have symptoms for longer than 12 weeks, and though that figure may be lower for the youth, it is surely still significant given the high aggregate case numbers. And of course, they also have much more to lose in an entire life hampered by chronic illness.

In light of this, the federal government’s “Phase 4” strategy of opening up international borders once all adults are able to be vaccinated is inadequate. All Australians need to be able to access a vaccine as soon as possible, without age restrictions.

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