Dear Prime Minister
I write to request that the forthcoming National Cabinet meeting consider the inclusion of children and all teenagers in the national vaccination targets.
The National Cabinet’s ‘reopening’ strategy envisages the substantial easing of restrictions when 80% vaccination rates are achieved. However, this is currently only 80% of the ‘eligible population’, defined as over 16-year olds, not 80% of the whole population, as recommended by the Grattan Institute.
Since National Cabinet agreed on the reopening strategy, the country has had further experience of the Delta variant. About half of the recent infections in NSW are of children and teenagers and in Victoria the figures are similar, with more than a quarter of cases amongst under 9-year olds, leading a number of experts to urge the reconsideration of the vaccination of children.
The international experience is also showing a rapid rise in COVID amongst children and teenagers as the Delta variant spreads and they remain largely unvaccinated. For example, last week the United States saw a record hospitalisation of children with COVID. I also note that you have said that ATAGI is due to advise soon on vaccination of children and teenagers between 12 and 15, an age group for whom the Pfizer vaccine has already been approved. This group may be encouraged to get a vaccination, yet they are not included in the vaccination targets.
As things currently stand, the exclusion of under 16s from the calculation of vaccine targets means that National Cabinet may consider the 80% target met when as little as 65% of the entire population is vaccinated, with little - or theoretically zero - vaccination rates amongst under 16s.
As a country, we are both understanding and fighting this virus in real time. Things are moving quickly and given the recent real-world infection and transmission experience of Delta amongst children and teenagers, it is difficult to see widespread acceptance of reopening if children and teenagers are not part of the vaccination targets.
Given the speed with which Delta is infecting and transmitting through the community, the impact on children and the growing concern about reopening with children and teenagers largely unvaccinated, I formally request that National Cabinet include the whole population when calculating the reopening targets, or at least set a separate target for the vaccination of children and teenagers prior to reopening, and at a minimum seek further advice on the inclusion of children and teenagers when determining vaccination targets.
Adam Bandt MP
Federal Member for Melbourne Leader of the Australian Greens