A new weekly epidemiological surveillance report on COVID-19 in children has been launched by Murdoch Children's Research Institute researchers.

The reports will be a valuable tool in rapidly assessing the spread and seriousness of new variants of concern, as well as tracking any demographic changes in affected populations, with a particular focus on children.

Compiled by Darren Suryawijaya Ong in conjunction with Professor Fiona Russell and Dr John Hart, the weekly summaries will document the latest COVID-19 surveillance data in children and adolescents in Australia. The first report was compiled on December 3, 2021.

Specific countries that are relevant to the Australian context because of their size, COVID-19 epidemiology, mitigation measures in place and data availability will also be included in the surveillance reports. South Africa will be looked at due to the prevalence of the Omicron variant across the country.

Data on Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome in Children (MIS-C), also known as Paediatric Inflammatory Multisystem Syndrome (PIMS-TS) will be added when that data is reported from various regions.

The researchers said the epidemiology varies by country and within countries, by vaccination uptake, demographics and compliance with other public health and social measures. The number of infections in unvaccinated children may increase if there are minimal school mitigation measures in place, there are changes to testing criteria and the adoption of rapid screening in schools. They predicted the number of cases will be biased towards the age groups that are tested most.

"It has been difficult to understand the epidemiology of infection in children and adolescents," Professor Russell said. This report helps to explain why the epidemiology is different in different settings.

"With Omicron, it becomes even more important as we learn how this variant is affecting children both locally and in other places around the world."

Mr Ong said good quality surveillance data, made publicly available, was critical to keep the public informed on what to expect and for public health decision making.  

You can view the weekly summaries and other COVID-19 resources on our dedicated COVID-19 portal.