Child vaccinations considered as Victoria’s outbreak tops 80 cases

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Australia’s medical regulator is considering allowing children over the age of 12 to be vaccinated with Pfizer.

Confirmation of the proposal came as Victoria recorded 11 new COVID-19 cases on Monday, three of them children linked to the Delta strain behind a growing West Melbourne cluster.

Cohealth nurse Ashley Nind prepares a dose at a pop-up vaccination clinic at the North Melbourne public housing tower that was locked down last year.Credit:Justin McManus

Experts said the fact that all 11 new infections were linked to known cases, many of whom had been in isolation while infectious and therefore giving rise to only a few new exposure sites, went some way to allaying concerns that Melbourne’s lockdown could extend beyond Thursday.

Australia’s Chief Medical Officer Paul Kelly confirmed on Monday that the Therapeutic Goods Administration had received a proposal from Pfizer that had also gone to medical regulators around the world on the safety and efficacy of their vaccine for people aged 12 to 15.

“They are examining that information, other regulators similar to the TGA have accepted the safety, efficacy and quality proposal,” Professor Kelly said.

“It will be a matter for the TGA but I suspect that they would go along the same line, but the timing of that, I’m unclear.”

Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Monday said children returning to in-person school classes should be a particular priority.

“Kids have lost enough time out of school over the last 18 months,” he said.

His comments came as a survey of Victorian aged care workers found more than a third did not want the COVID-19 vaccine to be mandatory, and one in four said they would consider quitting their job if they were forced to receive the jab.

About 42 per cent of the 2000 nursing home staff surveyed by the Health Workers Union at the weekend said they were yet to receive their first dose, while 37 per cent had received one dose and 21 per cent had received two.

Brian leaving the Melrose Street tower in North Melbourne last July after the hard lockdown.Credit:Simon Schluter

Those isolating in the towers have been offered alternative accommodation, but all had decided to stay at home for now, a state government spokeswoman said.

“That is less than 1 per cent of the primary close contacts of the West Melbourne cluster,” Mr Weimar said. “A very, very small number.”

Public health experts said there was no reason residents in high-rise public housing couldn’t safely isolate at home. However, Professor Bennett suggested authorities could offer an extra COVID-19 test during their isolation, to provide an early warning for any positive results.

Last year, nine public housing towers in North Melbourne and Flemington were surrounded by police and placed into a harsh lockdown in what Victorian Ombudsman Deborah Glass said violated the human rights of 3000 tenants who had no opportunity to prepare.

North Melbourne tower resident Brian, from the Melrose Street block, said tenants were worried the hard lockdown would be repeated.

“It’s because the people don’t know what’s going on,” said Brian, who did not want his surname published. “When I say people are worried, they are worried. Believe me, they are worried.”

Pop-up vaccination clinics will also open at public housing towers in Carlton, Flemington and Collingwood, followed by Williamstown next week.

Brian – who didn’t think cleaning had been intensified in the common areas at his estate – said there had not been enough communication with residents about the pop-up clinics and testing sites, leaving people more confused and fearful.

Health concierges, employed by cohealth, are stationed in each high-rise tower in Melbourne and can connect isolating residents with essentials.

Public Housing Residents Network spokesman Cory Memery, who lives in a block in Carlton, didn’t want to see a repeat of last year’s hard lockdown on tower residents.

“We all in the public housing towers actually did all the right things last year,” he said.

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