Australia

COVID-19 vaccine booster approved for at-risk children aged 12 to 15

Australian children aged 12 to 15 who are at risk of severe disease will be eligible for a COVID-19 booster vaccine from next week.
The Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation has recommended extending eligibility for the Pfizer booster to about 120,00 children starting on 14 June.

They must have received their second dose at least three months ago, be severely immunocompromised, have disability with significant health needs, or have complex or multiple health conditions that increase the risk of severe COVID-19.

Otherwise healthy children who have received two vaccine doses are still considered to be well protected against severe disease.

Health Minister Mark Butler on Thursday welcomed the recommendation and encouraged anyone eligible to book in for their boosters.
Meanwhile, Australians’ uptake of potentially life-saving COVID-19 antivirals is slowly ramping up, as authorities look to simplify their distribution criteria.
Awareness of the drugs Lagevrio and Paxlovid has increased in recent weeks, largely thanks to media coverage. However, there is still some way to go.

Australian Medical Association vice-president Dr Chris Moy said the peak body was working with authorities to further advertise the antivirals.

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He said one of the biggest challenges remained getting people to take them within five days of their symptoms starting, the mandatory time frame for access.

They also have to test positive for the virus before taking them.

“In the five-day window, sometimes some people are not getting tested in time,” Dr Moy told news agency AAP.
“There is (also) a sub-group who probably would never want it anyway … some of that may be those who have been not keen on vaccination previously.”
He said it was incumbent on the health system to make Australians aware that antivirals were an important second line of defence to alleviate the risk of severe disease.

“It could make the difference between life and death for some people and also reduce the chances of them ending up in hospital,” Dr Moy said.

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The antiviral drugs are listed on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) and can be accessed in accordance with its guidelines, but there are also state-based regulations that can vary.
“And also some of them don’t match the PBS guidelines,” Dr Moy said.
“It’s sometimes difficult for a GP to work out what to do when they find a patient is caught between differing criteria.”
He said some sufferers could be referred to state authorities to get the medication.

Dr Moy said authorities were looking at simplifying guidelines for the antiviral drugs’ distribution so there could be harmony across the board.

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