ATAGI approves Moderna vaccine for young children at risk


Parents are advised not to contact vaccine providers until bookings open, following the decision to approve vaccination for the youngest cohort.

Young children at risk under the age of five can be vaccinated from the beginning of September. (Image: AAP Pictures)

At-risk children aged six months to four years are now eligible for the Moderna vaccine following a recommendation from the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunization (ATAGI).

Around 70,000 young children are at higher risk of developing serious illness from COVID-19, according to Minister for Health and Elderly Care Mark Butler.

This cohort will be able to receive the Moderna vaccine from September 5, after the advisory group recommended it for certain at-risk groups, including severely immunocompromised children, disabled children and those with complex health conditions.

According to the announcement released by the minister’s office, only a “small proportion” of existing vaccination sites will administer the vaccine due to “the special needs of this group of children and the small size of the cohort to be vaccinated”.

The government has also specifically asked parents to wait for vaccination sites to be confirmed before contacting vaccine suppliers.

He advises that participating sites will be posted on the Vaccine Clinic Finder website later this month when reservations will open.

People recommended for vaccination include children with the following conditions:

  • Severe primary or secondary immunodeficiency, including those undergoing cancer treatment, or on immunosuppressive treatments as outlined in ATAGI guidance on third primary doses of the COVID-19 vaccine in severely immunocompromised people
  • Bone marrow or stem cell transplant, or chimeric antigenic T cell (CAR-T) therapy
  • Complex congenital heart disease
  • Structural airway abnormalities or chronic lung disease
  • Type 1 diabetes
  • Chronic neurological or neuromuscular conditions
  • A disability that requires frequent assistance with activities of daily living, such as severe cerebral palsy or Down syndrome (trisomy 21).

Two doses are recommended for primary treatment, except for severely immunocompromised children who require three doses.

The recommended interval between doses is eight weeks.

Expressions of interest in administering the vaccine were open for a short time last month.

The RACGP president’s assistant professor, Karen Price, said COVID-19 vaccine delivery practices would need support.

“This latest announcement is good news, but it will add another layer of work for the practices that have raised their hands to help deliver these vaccines,” she said.

“We are already fully delivering COVID-19 vaccines and flu vaccines, as well as care for people who have delayed consultations and screenings during the pandemic.

“It’s also important to keep in mind that giving vaccines to children, especially young children, takes longer and is more complicated than giving vaccines to adults.”

The vaccine was provisionally approved by the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) for use in Australian children aged six months to under five years old last month.

ATAGI has not extended vaccination against COVID-19 to children in the age category that are not at increased risk.

“These children have a very low likelihood of severe illness from COVID-19,” says ATAGI.

“However, this is being reviewed based on disease burden and epidemiology data, vaccine supply, emerging data on vaccine use in this age group and the availability of new COVID-19 vaccines for this age group.”

Supply had been raised as a potential issue, with Health and Aged Care Minister Mark Butler previously noting high demand for doses of the pediatric vaccine.

However, in Wednesday’s announcement, the minister said the at-risk group’s request would be met.

“The Australian Government has secured the supply of this new vaccine for young children and these vaccines will soon be distributed to vaccination sites,” the government announcement reads.

A request from Pfizer for tentative approval of its own COVID-19 vaccine in young children in Australia is also pending.

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