Australian millennials should be vaccinated ahead of 40 to 59-year-olds, with a leading epidemiologist saying “it’s now time to sacrifice for the young”.
Not only will it help limit the spread of COVID-19 and indirectly protect our most vulnerable, it’s also the compassionate thing to do.
That’s according to Professor Mary-Louise McLaws, an infectious diseases expert at UNSW and member of the World Health Organisation’s COVID-19 response team.
“We’re leaving them with a sad economy and climate change – the least we could do is to give them the vaccine,” Professor McLaws told The New Daily.
“Do we really want our young to enter middle age with ill effects from COVID? We want them to be productive socially, economically and in their fertility. We want them to enjoy parenthood and adulthood.”
But Australia’s continuing supply issues mean any dreams of vaccinating young people as a priority will remain just that.
It comes as our national rollout hit another speed bump on Thursday after the Morrison government recommended the AstraZeneca vaccine now be limited to those older than 60.
The change in advice came a week after a second Australian, a 52-year-old woman, died following rare complications after receiving the AstraZeneca shot.
From now on, Pfizer doses will be used to vaccinate Australians aged between 40 and 59, and AstraZeneca will be used to vaccinate those older than 60.
But Professor McLaws said we should prioritise vaccinating 20 to 39-year-olds first, as they are the ones largely responsible for driving the virus’ spread.
“Any leftover Pfizer should go to 40 to 50-year-olds, then after them, 50 to 60-year-olds, and then it should go to children,” she added.
The idea that countries should vaccinate young people as a priority is not new.
In a recent peer-reviewed study, Norwegian and American researchers suggested alternating between vaccinating high-risk, older age groups and younger, more sociable groups to reduce COVID deaths.
The study, published in the Royal Society Open Science journal, found mixed vaccination, in which half the doses were given to high-risk people and the other half given to the “core-sociable ones”, would lead to “considerably greater reduction in deaths” than only focusing on older age groups.
Young, sociable people are largely responsible for “heightened circulation” of COVID-19, the researchers said.
Vaccinating this group as a priority would help slow the virus’s spread and therefore provide “indirect protection” to our most vulnerable.
After initially vaccinating the elderly, switching vaccination priority between these groups every six months could be very beneficial, they said.
Epidemiologist Mike Toole, from the Burnet Institute, said he agreed with Professor McLaws’ call to vaccinate young people as soon as possible.
“It makes sense in that they are the most active people in the community,” he told TND.
“But we have a big supply problem looming.”
He pointed to the new AstraZeneca age limit, plus the Victorian government’s recent ban on first-dose Pfizer bookings at vaccination hubs due to “ongoing supply issues”.
“We can only give 20 to 39-year-olds Pfizer at the moment and not any other vaccine, because we don’t have any,” Professor Toole said.