No boosters for children aged 12 to 15, despite regulatory approval

Children aged 12 to 15 will not yet be able to receive a coronavirus booster shot, despite the medicines regulator provisionally approving the dose on Friday, after the nation’s vaccine advisory group determined prior vaccination was continuing to provide sufficient protection from severe disease.

On Friday afternoon, the Therapeutic Goods Administration announced it had approved Pfizer’s coronavirus vaccine for use as a booster in the age group.

Children aged 12 to 15 will not be receiving booster shots in the near future, after the vaccine advisory group determined the protection from a primary course was sufficient.Credit:Eddie Jim

However, hours later, national vaccine advisory group ATAGI said it would not be recommending the shot for children aged 12 to 15 “at this time”.

“Current data suggest that COVID-related serious illness is very rare in adolescents aged 12 to 15, particularly after completion of a primary series of COVID-19 vaccination,” ATAGI said in its statement.

“At this time, ATAGI does not recommend that adolescents aged 12 to 15 years need to receive a booster dose of Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine and will continue to review international evidence on efficacy of a booster in this age group.”

The advisory group said it continued to “strongly recommend” children aged five to 15 receive a primary course of coronavirus vaccine: two doses for most children and three for children who are severely immunocompromised.

While the Therapeutic Goods Administration is responsible for determining if vaccines are safe for use, it is the role of ATAGI to determine how they will be recommended for use, including intervals between doses and whether they should be prioritised for certain groups, such as people with particular health conditions.

Professor Allen Cheng, an ATAGI member and former co-chair, said the group was continuing to “keep a close eye” on the issue, describing its recommendation as “a not yet, as opposed to a not ever”.

“Children of that age group are unlikely to have serious disease, and of all the kids who have come into hospital very few of them are vaccinated,” he said, noting it was important for parents to make sure their children received their primary course of vaccination.

Eighty per cent of Australian children aged 12 to 15 have been vaccinated against COVID-19 since becoming eligible for the shots last September.

Dr Karen Price, president of the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners, said local GPs would “always follow” the advice of ATAGI.

She encouraged people aged 16 and over eligible for their booster who had not yet come forward to book their shot and people aged over 65 and other at-risk groups to book their second booster four months after their first.

“The reasoning that ATAGI is giving is there is no evidence of waning immunity in that younger age group,” NSW chair of the college, Dr Charlotte Hespe, said, stressing it was not a supply issue and those aged 16 and over should book their shots.

“There is plenty of booster available, and it is approved to be used, so we will wait for that guidance,” she said of boosters for younger teenagers.

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