ATAGI, the body which has been advising the government on who should get what COVID vaccine during the pandemic, has finally recommended the Pfizer vaccine for all children aged between 12 and 15.
First and foremost this is great news for kids. The Delta strain of COVID-19 is affecting young people more than ever, and while symptoms still tend to be pretty mild in young children, getting vaccinated will mean they’re way less likely to pass it on to, say, their grandparents or immunocompromised people.
This is also great news for the rest of us as we try to achieve these vaccination targets of 70%, 80% or even 90% herd immunity.
“The Doherty Institute modelling recommended some relaxation of restrictions when the percentage of 16 years and over fully vaccinated reaches 70% and then 80%,” said Professor Adrian Esterman, Chair of Biostatistics and Epidemiology at the University of South Australia.
“However, recent modelling by other Australian groups, suggests that 80% of the whole population fully vaccinated including children needs to be achieved before Australia can safely open up. ATAGI’s recommendation will help move us towards this target.”
The President of the WA branch of the Australian Medical Association, Dr Mark Duncan-Smith, went as far as saying that aiming for 70% or 80% vaccination targets that only include adults is “bordering on child abuse” because it leaves them vulnerable.
While in the past, young people weren’t major transmitters of COVID, things have changed and we’ve already seen recent outbreaks in Australia that been spread further through children, according to infectious diseases physician Associate Professor Paul Griffin from the University of Queensland.
“Vaccinating this group will not only have an impact on the susceptibility of the population in general, and therefore likely contribute to our ability to ease restrictions in a safe way when our vaccination rates are high enough overall,” he added.
“It will also hopefully help to allow this group to return to important activities sooner, safely, for example school and even extracurricular activities, which are so important not only from an education perspective, but from a socialisation and developmental perspective.”
There are also other, more practical and immediate benefits which affect all Australians.
It’s simply not practical to keep children at home indefinitely. The reality is that parents need to work, and even if they’re working from home, they can’t always dedicate their attention to their kids (especially younger kids) for every waking minute.
This means your boss who’s always A Bit Distracted™ or at the end of their tether or just constantly pushing meetings back will hopefully get a break and become more attentive again, too.
Not only is vaccinating children against COVID-19 essential for their own development – be it social, emotional or educational – but if lockdowns go on much longer, it’ll prove essential to the very functioning of society as we know it, too.
All adult Aussies (yep, even if those of us under 40) are currently able to get the safe and effective AstraZeneca vaccine through a GP. Click here to see which clinics are offering it, and talk to a doctor to see if it’s right for you.
Alternatively, you can triple-check to see if you’re eligible for the Pfizer vaccine here.
The best vaccine is the first one you can get, and that’ll be our ticket out of this mess.