Amid an ongoing debate over the level of vaccination needed to open up Australia, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said cabinet’s national security committee would consider how to widen the program on Thursday.
“Twelve to 15-year-olds in Australia will be vaccinated,” Morrison told reporters in Canberra on Thursday.
The news came as NSW reported a record 1029 new locally acquired cases of COVID-19, and three deaths, as the government announced outdoor gatherings of up to five fully vaccinated people are permitted from September 13.
However, a lockdown in regional NSW will be extended to at least September 10, given the number of cases in Dubbo and across western NSW.
The entire state is currently locked down and police are cracking down on lockdown compliance as authorities battle to contain the spread of the virulent Delta strain.
Of the 1029 cases in the 24 hours to 8pm on Wednesday, the isolation status of 844 remains under investigation.
The three people who died were a man in his 30s, a man in his 60s and a man in his 80s, all of whom were unvaccinated and died at home. The death toll for the current NSW outbreak now sits at 79.
Victoria, meanwhile, reported 80 new locally-acquired cases – the highest increase in the state since September last year – and the ACT reported 14 new cases.
Queensland, by contrast, reported no new cases in the community and just two cases detected in hotel quarantine, continuing the low numbers seen since it brought the Indooroopilly cluster under control. In that cluster, the Delta variant spread through several Brisbane schools, prompting the push for adolescents to be vaccinated as soon as possible.
Morrison said the decision was consistent with interim advice from the expert immunisation panel ATAGI, with the final findings expected on Friday.
“That will enable us to move forward with the vaccination of 12-15 -year-olds,” he said.
There are 1.2 million people aged 12 to 15 in Australia.
Morrison said with 1.8 million doses being administered a week, that age group could be immunised quickly.
The prime minister is confident there will be adequate supply of vaccines to expand the rollout which has been hampered by the pace of imports.
Education Minister Alan Tudge said 220,000 12- to 15-year-olds with compromised immune systems, underlying health conditions or who are Indigenous had already received a jab.
Planning is underway to vaccinate children in schools and a proposal to allow families to receive jabs at the same time is being worked on.
Unvaccinated younger people are increasingly making up a larger proportion of coronavirus cases around Australia.
Tudge said there was no country in the world that had approved vaccines for children under 12.
“While some kids are getting the virus, it doesn’t seem to cause significant illness compared to the adult population,” he told ABC radio.
Some experts have raised concerns about the lingering effects of the virus on children.
Australian Medical Association president Omar Khorshid said parents should not panic about children being exposed to the disease.
“We don’t need to be terrified about the thought that our children might get COVID,” he told the ABC.
“They’re more robust than we are, they’re going to get through it more likely than we are.”
Khorshid said data from the United States on vaccinating children under 12 was not expected until September to October.
There were 80 new local coronavirus cases in Victoria on Thursday, while the crisis in NSW continues.
Australia has fully vaccinated 31.56 per cent of its population aged 16 and 54.37 per cent have received one jab.Jump to next article