Vulnerable 12- to 15-year-olds will be eligible for the Pfizer vaccine from next week and residents in Queensland’s COVID-19 hotspot are being urged to get any available vaccine as outbreaks worsen around the country.
Fast coronavirus testing could also become more widely available as trials of the rapid antigen tests continue in aged care facilities around NSW.
The Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI) highlighted the “increasing risk” of outbreaks outside Sydney and reiterated its updated advice on the risks and benefits of the AstraZeneca vaccine, as 11 south-east Queensland local government areas were included in the Commonwealth hotspot definition and the state recorded 13 new cases.
“ATAGI reaffirms previous advice that in large outbreaks, the benefits of the COVID-19 Vaccine AstraZeneca are greater than the risk of rare side effects for all age groups,” the group said in a statement.
Having previously said Pfizer was the preferred vaccine for under-6os, ATAGI late last month urged all adults in Greater Sydney to strongly consider getting any coronavirus vaccine available, including AstraZeneca. On Monday, the state recorded 207 new cases and one further death.
From next Monday, about 220,000 children will be eligible for the Pfizer vaccine after ATAGI approved its use for 12- to 15-year-olds if they have underlying medical conditions, are Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander or live in remote communities.
The decision comes a week after Australia’s medical regulator, the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA), approved the vaccine for that age group. Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt said on Monday he expected the expert vaccine group’s advice to address the rest of that age group by late August or early September.
“[ATAGI] identified that there was a significantly greater risk to the immuno-compromised or [those] with underlying medical conditions,” he said. “They’re also reviewing international evidence with regard to the broader age group from 12 to 15, and they haven’t projected that, but they’ve signalled that that would be approximately four to six weeks from now.”