Australian children aged 12 to 15 at risk of severe illness will be eligible for a COVID-19 booster shot from next week.
The Australian Immunization Technical Advisory Group has recommended extending Pfizer booster eligibility to around 120,000 children from June 14.
They must have received their second dose at least three months ago, be severely immunocompromised, have a disability with significant health needs, or have complex or multiple health conditions that increase the risk of severe COVID-19.
On the other hand, healthy children who have received two doses of vaccine are still considered to be well protected against serious diseases.
On Thursday, Health Minister Mark Butler welcomed the recommendation and encouraged anyone eligible to book their boosters.
Meanwhile, Australians’ uptake of potentially life-saving COVID-19 antivirals is slowly increasing, as authorities seek to simplify their distribution criteria.
Awareness of the drugs Lagevrio and Paxlovid has increased in recent weeks, largely thanks to media coverage. However, there is still a long way to go.
Australian Medical Association vice-president Dr Chris Moy said the peak body was working with authorities to further promote antivirals.
He said one of the biggest challenges remains getting people to take them within five days of the onset of their symptoms, the mandatory timeframe for access.
They must also test positive for the virus before taking them.
“In the five-day window, some people sometimes don’t get tested in time,” Dr. Moy told AAP.
“There’s (also) a subgroup that probably never would anyway… some of them may be those who weren’t keen on the idea of vaccination before.”
He said it was up to the health system to make Australians aware that antivirals were an important second line of defense in mitigating the risk of serious illness.
“It could mean the difference between life and death for some people and also reduce their chances of ending up in hospital,” Dr Moy said.
Antiviral drugs are listed on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) and can be accessed according to its guidelines, but there are also state regulations which may vary.
“And also some of them don’t fit the PBS guidelines,” Dr. Moy said.
“It is sometimes difficult for a general practitioner to know what to do when he discovers that a patient is caught between different criteria.”
He said some sufferers may be referred to state authorities to obtain the drugs.
Dr Moy said authorities were looking to simplify guidelines for distributing antiviral drugs so there could be harmony across the board.
LATEST 24-HOUR COVID-19 DATA:
NSW: 8,201 cases, 21 deaths, 1,263 in hospital including 40 in intensive care.
Victoria: 8903 cases, 22 deaths, 517 in hospital including 29 in intensive care.
Queensland: 3,861 cases, nine deaths, 297 in hospital including 11 in intensive care.
Tasmania: 624 cases, one death, 37 in hospital including one in intensive care.
NT: 250 cases, one death, 16 in hospital, none of them in intensive care.
Australian Associated Press