News Coronavirus COVID vaccine available for children under five

COVID vaccine available for children under five

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Moderna’s COVID vaccine will be made available to some children aged six months to five years in particular risk categories.

Health Minister Mark Butler announced in Canberra on Wednesday he had accepted the advice of experts to allow the vaccinations.

Australia is one of the first countries in the world to make the recommendation, although it has also been backed in the US and Canada.

The program will start on September 5 and will be available for children with severe immunocompromise, disability, and those who have complex or multiple health conditions that increase the risk of severe COVID.

These include such conditions as severe primary or secondary immunodeficiency, including those undergoing treatment for cancer, as well as children having bone marrow or stem cell transplant therapy, or being treated for complex congenital cardiac disease and chronic lung disease.

The full list of conditions is available on the health department website.

Arrangements to allow vaccine bookings are on the way.

The recommendation is for two primary doses, except for those with severe immunocompromise, who require three primary doses.

The recommended interval between each dose is eight weeks.

Mr Butler said advisory body ATAGI did not recommend vaccination for children aged six months to five years who were not in the risk categories for severe COVID-19.

ATAGI said there was a “very low risk” of the virus in healthy children under five.

Meanwhile, a child’s nose is more effective at fighting off COVID-19 than that of an adult, Australian researchers have found.

The research, published in the journal PLOS Biology, suggests the nasal epithelium – or nose lining – of children inhibits infection and replication of the original and Delta strains of the virus that causes COVID-19.

Lead author Kirsty Short, from the University of Queensland, said the paper found children had a lower infection rate and milder symptoms than adults.

However, the anti-viral strength of the nose lining did not provide the same protection against the more infectious Omicron strain.

Researchers obtained samples of nasal lining cells from 23 healthy children aged two-11 and 15 healthy adults aged 19-66 in Australia.

They exposed the cells of adults and children to SARS-CoV-2, which causes COVID-19, and then observed the “infection kinetics” and “antiviral responses in children compared to adults”.

The scientists said more clinical studies would be needed as the sample size was small.

“We have provided the first experimental evidence that the pediatric nasal epithelium may play an important role in reducing the susceptibility of children to SARS-CoV-2,” the authors said.

Last month, chief medical officer Professor Paul Kelly issued a fresh warning about the increase in COVID cases across Australia.

There have been nearly 12,000 virus-related deaths in Australia since the start of the pandemic.

The vast majority have been people aged 70 and older. However, 15 have been children aged nine or under.

Australia’s latest 24-hour COVID data

NSW: 16,648 cases, 39 deaths, 2288 in hospital with 67 in ICU

Victoria: 9122 cases, six deaths, 743 in hospital with 40 in ICU

Queensland: 6399 cases, six deaths, 788 in hospital with 22 in ICU

Tasmania: 892 cases, three deaths, 101 people in hospital with seven in ICU

Western Australia: 4062 cases, four deaths, 404 in hospital with 12 in ICU

South Australia: 2860 cases, six deaths (between July 26 and August 2), 337 in hospital with 11 in ICU

Northern Territory: 366 cases, no deaths, 57 in hospital with one in ICU