Epidemiologist Calls For RATs To Be Available In School Settings

Child vaccine rollout continues

Article heading image for Epidemiologist Calls For RATs To Be Available In School Settings

A leading epidemiologist says school students should be taking rapid antigen tests frequently in order to minimise the risk of outbreak amongst an unvaccinated cohort.

As the first dose Pfizer rollout for five to 11 year olds became available on Monday, parents and health experts have issued concern welcoming students back to school.

"Basically, kids will have to still go to school or do school at home, until there is quite a big proportion of them getting vaccinated," Professor Mary-Louise McLaws said.

"So they should be really using rapid antigen tests at least every other day when they are going on to the school site because there could be - unknown to everybody - infected and unvaccinated (children).

"Therefore, all kids could be at risk."

The period until a second dose will become available for eligible students stands at eight weeks. With back to school looming over the next three weeks, communities face a major transmission risk.

Pending supply, workforce and administration issues, children will become fully vaccinated by mid-March at the very earliest.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison previously put a line through rapid antigen tests being free nationwide.

Almost 35,000 children received their first COVID-19 vaccination on day one of the initial rollout for five to 11-year-olds.

The nation's primary immunisation group will provide advice to government officials on booster requirement for under 18s - should it be approved.

“The Therapeutic Goods Administration is currently evaluating data on the Pfizer COVID-19 booster for individuals aged 16 to 17 years of age,” a spokesperson from Federal Health department said.

“The Australian government continues to encourage individuals to complete a two-dose vaccination schedule, as this enables strong protection against severe illness and hospitalisation.”

Deputy Medical Officer Dr Michael Kidd believes Australian's will witness a reduction in outbreaks throughout schools once the child vaccination rollout is complete.

“By the time children are returning to school the majority of children in Australia will have had the opportunity to have had their first dose.”

Dr Kidd said more appointments and bookings will become available, after early reports of supply issues and staff shortages to assists in vaccines being administered.

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11 January 2022

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