Finally, a relief as the COVID-19 vaccine for children between six months and 5 years old is out

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Starting next month, children between 6 months and 5 years old who are at risk will be able to get a COVID-19 vaccine. Thus, good news for parents as the COVID-19 vaccine for children below 5 is finally there.

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The Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI) says that about 70,000 young children who are more likely to get sick from COVID-19 and be hospitalized should be able to get the Moderna vaccine starting September 5.

At this point, the vaccine is only recommended for kids in that age range who have a very weak immune system, a disability, or a lot of health problems that make them more likely to get COVID-19.

ATAGI said that it was not recommending that more children in this age group get vaccinated because COVID-19 was not likely to cause serious illness in these children. However, it said that it was still thinking about this based on data and the supply and availability of vaccines.

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The vaccine advisory body also said that there wasn’t enough evidence to show that vaccinating babies and kids would have any effect on how the disease spreads in the community.

Children who are eligible should get two primary doses eight weeks apart. Children with weak immune systems should also get a third shot at the COVID-19 vaccine for children.

The federal Health Minister, Mark Butler, said that Australia, along with the U.S. and Canada, would be one of the first places in the world to give COVID-19 vaccines to children under the age of five.

“Given that there aren’t that many children here who are especially likely to get sick, we’re confident that there will be a good turnout,” he said.

“This is obviously a matter for the parents to decide, and if they have any questions, I encourage them to talk to the doctors who are taking care of their children.”

But he did say that the number of vaccines given to children aged 5 to 11 had stopped going up. Only 40% of this age group had gotten two doses, and just over 50% had gotten one shot.

He said, “There is more work to be done there.”

The Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) has given a paediatric dose of the Moderna vaccine, which has less of the active ingredient than the adult dose, temporary approval. This is why ATAGI is giving this advice.

The federal government has bought 500,000 doses of the paediatric vaccine for children ages six months to five years old. The first supplies will arrive in Australia later this week.

Before they are used by everyone, the TGA will need to test them in groups.

Parents can’t book the vaccine yet, but they will be able to in the coming weeks. The government has said that only a small number of vaccination sites will offer these vaccines.

The TGA has also commenced evaluation for the Pfizer vaccine for under-five-year-olds, which could potentially provide additional supply options for the government.

Mr Butler said overall more than 1.5 million Australians had also received a fourth dose of the COVID vaccine since the federal government expanded eligibility three weeks ago.

People over 65 have gotten a fourth dose of the vaccine two-thirds of the time.

What’s the eligibility criteria for COVID-19 vaccine for children?

ATAGI recommends a COVID-19 vaccine for kids between 6 months and 5 years old who:

  • Very low  immune system
  • Have a disability
  • Have complicated and/or multiple health problems that make them more likely to get COVID-19

These include or are similar to the following:

Severe primary or secondary immunodeficiency, including treatment for cancer, or immunosuppressive treatments, as listed in the earlier ATAGI advice on third primary doses of COVID-19 vaccine for people who are severely immunocompromised;

  • Bone marrow transplant, stem cell transplant, or chimeric antigen T-cell (CAR-T) therapy
  • Complex congenital cardiac disease
  • Airway abnormalities or long-term lung disease
  • Type 1 diabetes mellitus
  • Chronic neurological or neuromuscular conditions
  • A disability that makes it hard to do everyday things without help, like severe cerebral palsy or Down syndrome (Trisomy 21)

ATAGI does not recommend that more children in this age group get vaccinated because COVID-19 is not likely to cause a serious illness in this age group.

Which COVID-19 vaccine for children below 5 is there?

A version of the Moderna vaccine made for children.

The Moderna vaccine should be given in a dose of 25 micrograms to people in this age group.

Compared to that, the Moderna vaccine is recommended for older children at 50 micrograms and for people 12 years and older at 100 micrograms.

How to book the COVID-19 vaccine for children?

It’s not possible yet.

Bookings will open later this month, according to Butler.

In the next few weeks, we’ll get more details about booking. 

What about children aged five and older?

COVID-19 vaccine is recommended for children aged five and older. 

COVID-19 vaccines have been available since January. 

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