First vaccine greenlit for at-risk kids under five

3 minute read

Moderna's paediatric formulation of Spikevax will be available to this group from 5 September.

ATAGI has recommended covid vaccinations for children aged six months to five years with conditions that make them vulnerable to severe disease.

In new advice released today, the advisory group lists the following and similar conditions as warranting immunisation:

  • Severe primary or secondary immunodeficiency, including those undergoing treatment for cancer, or on immunosuppressive treatments as listed in the ATAGI advice on 3rd primary doses of COVID-19 vaccine in individuals who are severely immunocompromised;
  • Bone marrow or stem cell transplant, or chimeric antigen T-cell (CAR-T) therapy;
  • Complex congenital cardiac disease;
  • Structural airway anomalies or chronic lung disease;
  • Type 1 diabetes mellitus;
  • Chronic neurological or neuromuscular conditions; or
  • A disability that requires frequent assistance with activities of daily living, such as severe cerebral palsy or Down Syndrome (Trisomy 21).

This new cohort will be eligible from 5 September, with bookings to open later this month.

ATAGI does not yet recommend vaccinating children who aren’t in those risk categories, though it says “this is under ongoing consideration based on data on the disease burden and epidemiology, vaccine supply, emerging data on vaccine use in this age group, and availability of new covid-19 vaccines for this age group”.

The only vaccine provisionally approved for use in such young children in Australia is a paediatric formulation of Moderna’s vaccine Spikevax.

The recommended schedule is two doses, eight weeks apart, except for severely immunocompromised children, who should have three doses also eight weeks apart.

One of the factors that led to the recommendation was a study of 5500 children which found a “modest” protective effect against infection with Omicron after two doses, with the usual profile of mostly mild side effects.

The RACGP’s president Adjunct Professor Karen Price welcomed the announcement as a positive step in the vaccine rollout, but begged the public not to “all rush forward at once making immediate demands for the vaccine from your usual GP”.

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

Given the cohort was relatively small, she said, it was likely only a small number of general practices would be offering vaccines to this group.

Professor Price said GPs needed more help from the government to keep delivering the rollout. Extra funding would allow practices to run after-hours and weekend clinics.

“This latest announcement is yet another reminder that practices need more support from government. We are already flat out delivering covid-19 vaccines and influenza vaccines as well as delivering care to people who have delayed consultations and screenings during the pandemic.

“It is important to keep in mind too that delivering vaccines to children, particularly young children, is more time intensive and complicated compared to adults.”

ATAGI recommendations on covid-19 vaccine use in children aged 6 months to 5 years

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