ATAGI releases clinical information on teen boosters
About 65% of adolescents aged 16 and over are now eligible to receive a COVID booster shot.
The Australian Immunization Technical Advisory Group (ATAGI) has recommended that adolescents aged 16 and over receive a COVID-19 booster dose, days after the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) Pfizer’s vaccine tentatively approved for this cohort.
ATAGI states that the decision to recommend boosters for 16 to 17 year olds is based on a review of the epidemiology of COVID-19, disease burden, health benefits directly for individuals and indirectly for the community, and safety considerations in this age group.
The vaccine is recommended for all individuals in this cohort who have previously received TGA-approved or recognized vaccines for their primary immunization schedule, beginning three months after receiving their last primary dose.
This includes adolescents under the age of 16 when they received their last primary dose who are now over the age limit, and 16-17 year olds who are severely immunocompromised and have already received a third primary dose.
Following the confirmation, RACGP President Dr Karen Price welcomed ATAGI’s decision, but warned that COVID-19 vaccine delivery practices still needed more assistance.
“This latest recall announcement for 16-17 year olds is great news, but it will add another layer of work for GPs and GP teams across the country,” she said.
“We fully deliver vaccines for children, which takes longer and is more complicated than for adults, as well as boosters and take care of our daily patient load.
“Some people have avoided or delayed screenings and consultations during the pandemic and others have had to delay elective surgery, so helping those people is also a high priority.”
Dr Price says more federal government support is needed if general practice is to continue to be the ‘backbone’ of Australia’s vaccine rollout.
“Many practices have tremendous difficulty absorbing the cost of participating in deployment,” she said.
“We didn’t sign up to make money, but at the end of the day we have to make ends meet because no one benefits when a practice has to go out of business.”
As of February 3, 93.5% of people over the age of 16 had received two doses, while about 40% of this population had received a third dose. According to ATAGI, given that “a large proportion” of 16-17 year olds were vaccinated within the first three months of eligibility, around 65% must now receive a booster.
However, adolescents who have already developed myocarditis or pericarditis after a first dose of Pfizer or Moderna have been advised to discuss the benefits and risks a reminder with their cardiologist and/or general practitioner to determine if they should postpone vaccination.
Preliminary evidence from Israel’s booster program, which includes people 12 years and older, reports that post-booster myocarditis rates in 16-19 year olds were similar in women and lower in men than after a second primary dose , but higher than those observed after the first dose in this age group.
No additional safety concerns were reported after the booster doses and there was no evidence that myocarditis or pericarditis events were more severe after the boosters.
However, individuals with a history of mRNA vaccine anaphylaxis are contraindicated to receive a booster dose of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine and, unlike the adult population, cannot receive AstraZeneca as a booster.
Although no Australian deaths were recorded due to COVID-19 among 16-17 year olds between January 1 and November 21, 2021, 3.2% of cases required hospitalization. Meanwhile, around 6.3% of cases among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in this age group required hospitalization, indicating a higher rate of serious illness, ATAGI suggested.
In addition to providing enhanced protection against the Omicron variant, the ATAGI also anticipates that the boosters will help reduce transmission by preventing infection in these individuals, as well as potentially reducing onward transmission from infected individuals who are vaccinated. .
Teenagers who have recently had COVID and are now eligible for a booster are still recommended to receive their booster dose, which according to ATAGI can be given immediately after recovery from acute illness or delayed until at four months.
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