News COVID: Vulnerable babies exposed in hospital and regional pubs on alert
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COVID: Vulnerable babies exposed in hospital and regional pubs on alert

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Amid a coronavirus scare for some of Australia’s most vulnerable infants, pharmaceutical giant Pfizer says it has recorded promising results in tests on its COVID-19 vaccine for young children.

Another study covering children aged six months to five years old is expected to report back before the end of the year.

A Pfizer spokeswoman said results on tests in patients as young as five had shown a favourable safety profile and robust antibody response for two doses of its vaccine.

The data has gone to US regulators for initial review. A formal submission for emergency use authorisation, along with submissions to other regulatory authorities, are planned in the coming weeks.

Pfizer has applied to Australia’s Therapeutic Goods Administration for a provisional determination, which will allow formal application for inclusion of the five to 11-year-old age group.

Australia has already secured enough doses to vaccinate five to 12-year-olds. The TGA and the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation must approve the vaccine’s use for Australian children before the doses can be administered nationwide.

More than 53 per cent of children aged 12 to 15 have received a first jab just four weeks after the age cohort was added to the rollout.

There’s more on coronavirus risks to children in the wrap below as well as details on exposures in regional Victoria.

There’s also some good news for NSW residents, who could be getting extra freedoms if more people get vaccinated by the weekend.

Victoria

Dozens of the state’s most vulnerable hospital patients – critically ill babies – may have been exposed to the coronavirus.

The Herald Sun reports that a parent infected with COVID-19 visited Melbourne’s Royal Children’s ­Hospital neonatal intensive care unit.

The hospital’s Butterfly ward is yet to be listed as an exposure site on the government’s website.

The latest list of exposure sites, published late Tuesday, includes alerts for a childcare centre – Shine Bright in Maiden Gully – as well as cafes and pubs in regional areas.

They include:

  • The RSL in Wangarratta;
  • Pinsett Hotel in Wangarratta;
  • The Old ‘N’ Country in Wangarratta;
  • Bomboras cafe in Torquay;
  • Wakiti Creek Resort Caravan Park in Kotupna;
  • The National Hotel in Bendigo;
  • City Oval Hotel in Ballarat;
  • BB Chicken and pub in Geelong;
  • Next Level Skirmish in North Geelong.

Meanwhile, elective surgeries are on hold as hospitals brace for an influx of COVID-19 hospitalisations.

Health Minister Martin Foley confirmed public hospitals would perform only urgent category one and two surgeries from Thursday.

It came as Victoria recruits up to 1000 healthcare workers from outside Australia.

“As COVID cases increase … we will be progressively seeking to switch off elements of non-urgent care,” Mr Foley said.

Patients and parents who were in the Butterfly ward at Royal Children’s Hospital have reportedly been exposed. Photo: AAP

The numbers of Victorians in hospital with COVID-19 keeps rising, with 675 patients on Monday. They include 144 in intensive care and 100 on ventilators.

The government will inject $255 million into a hospital surge support allowance for healthcare workers who treat COVID-positive patients.

The allowance will provide up to $60 per shift for the next four months, and will kick in from this week.

Since recording 1965 cases on Saturday, Victoria’s virus infections have trended down, with another 1466 on Tuesday.

The good news is, experts are confident Victoria could reach 70 per cent vaccinated by as early as October 22 – and that means more freedoms returning sooner than originally planned.

NSW

NSW Health has issued an alert for anyone who was on Brisbane-Sydney Qantas flight QF509 on Saturday morning to get tested after it was revealed a passenger was infected with the virus.

NSW had 360 infections and five deaths on Tuesday. Some 766 virus patients are in hospital, including 155 in ICU.

The state is rapidly approaching the next vaccination milestone, just three days into the reopening triggered once 70 per cent of eligible residents were fully vaccinated.

Some 75.23 per cent of residents over 16 were fully vaccinated by Monday and 90.77 per cent had at least one shot.

That means NSW could reach the 80 per cent mark by Sunday.

If that milestone is reached, the next phase of the reopening will begin on Monday.

“The success of our vaccination rate has been absolutely superb … when we hit 80 per cent, we’ve always said it will be the Monday following,” Premier Dominic Perrottet told ABC radio.

However, the reopening roadmap could be tweaked if the next phase came so soon, he said.

“The rate of vaccination is Sydney has outpaced that in regional NSW, so when we set the roadmap we obviously had a focus on where we thought things would be at,” Mr Perrottet said.

NSW cabinet’s COVID and economic recovery committee – formerly known as crisis cabinet – will discuss the issue on Thursday.

Mr Perrottet said he would announce any changes to regional travel restrictions or other elements of the roadmap on Friday.

As things stand, the next phase of the roadmap will allow outdoor gatherings of up to 50 vaccinated people, 20 guests in a home, dancing at hospitality venues and drinking standing up at the pub.

Travel across NSW will be allowed, as will carpooling, weddings of any size if the venue is large enough, and community sport.

ACT

Changes to how ACT health authorities will handle positive COVID-19 cases are set to be revealed, as Canberra nears the end of lockdown.

ACT Chief Minister Andrew Barr will provide an update on Wednesday for how testing, tracing, isolation and quarantine will be undertaken, with less of an emphasis expected on case numbers.

The changes are expected to be phased in over several weeks, following the ending of Canberra’s lockdown on Friday.

The territory’s chief health officer Kerryn Coleman said the changes would coincide with a shift away from an emphasis on virus case figures.

“The daily numbers are becoming less important with our higher vaccination rate and more movement in the community,” Dr Coleman said.

“We are moving towards a COVID normal, where we expect to see an ongoing transmission of cases.”

Contact tracing is expected to focus on cases in the community that represent the greatest risk to the public.

The ACT is on track to reach 99 per cent of its eligible population being fully vaccinated.

Mr Barr said he expected to see that figure by the end of November.

Current vaccine figures show 98.2 per cent of over-12s in the ACT having received a first dose, while 72 per cent have received both doses.

Friday will bring eased restrictions, including gatherings of up to five people in one household or 25 outdoors.

Restaurants, cafes, bars, gyms and hairdressers will also be able to reopen, subject to density limits.

Most retail will have to wait until October 29 to reopen, but some non-essential stores that take appointments, such as for trying on clothes or test-driving a car, will be able to reopen for a maximum of two people per household.

The ACT had 28 COVID cases on Tuesday, including 22 linked with known cases.

-with AAP