Young teens should be added to vaccine rollout when supply increases

Paediatricians, mental health clinicians, epidemiologists, infectious disease and vaccine experts from the Murdoch Children's Research Institute (MCRI) have noted that 12-15 year olds should be included in the COVID-19 vaccine rollout as soon as supply constraints ease, but only after priority adult groups achieve higher vaccination rates.

The group also applauded the inclusion of 16-39 year olds in Australia's COVID-19 vaccine program and the Victorian Government's paid leave for teachers to be vaccinated, but note that teachers should be given priority when making vaccine bookings.

The experts made the statements in the first of a planned series of research briefs, summarising the latest information on children and adolescents in relation to COVID-19.

Professor Andrew Steer, who co-chairs the MCRI COVID-19 Governance Group with Professor Sharon Goldfeld, said, "COVID-19 can cause infection in children and adolescents that requires hospitalisation, although this is uncommon even with the delta strain, and rarely causes death.

"However, the impacts of 'long-COVID' are still unknown, so given that COVID-19 vaccines can safely protect those aged 12 years and older from infection and are already being used in many countries, this age group should be added to the rollout as a priority once supply constraints ease."

Professor Goldfeld said, "The pandemic is significantly affecting the mental health, learning and wellbeing of children and adolescents, especially for the most disadvantaged communities. Prolonged school closures and lockdowns are exacerbating these impacts, meaning that teachers, early educators, and school staff should be prioritised for vaccination."

The Research Brief concluded that once public health restrictions are relaxed, unvaccinated children and adolescents will remain vulnerable to infection and disease.

Clinical trials of mRNA vaccines in children under 12, including infants as young as 6 months, are still ongoing. Sufficient data on disease burden, vaccine safety and efficacy are required before we consider vaccinating this population, including at-risk children in this age group.

Download the COVID-19 vaccination for children and adolescents research brief.

Visit the MCRI website for more information on COVID, children and adolescents

Co-chairs of the COVID-19 Governance Group are available for interview:

Professor Andrew Steer
Professor Sharon Goldfeld

Media Contact:

Tom Keeble                                                                                                       
MCRI Communications Manager                             
+61 400 764 084                                                      

About MCRI

Murdoch Children's Research Institute (MCRI) is Australia's largest child health research organisation, helping save lives and improve the lifelong health of millions of children.

For more than 35 years, MCRI has been advancing knowledge of what influences a child's health, from preconception through to early adulthood. Their legion of internationally recognised child health experts are tackling the broadest and most complex health issues affecting children and families today, and tomorrow. 

They're continuously developing life-changing health interventions and practical applications that improve medical practice, inform public health policy and education to deliver better outcomes for children. 

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