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Covid: Child cases triple adults, ‘Chicken Pox’ defence needed

October 12, 2021 Medical Tourism No Comments
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Covid cases in children have grown triple the rate of adults, requiring a “chicken pox” defence from governments to avoid the lack of vaccine protection in kids causing a ‘poll-driven’ premature return to lockdowns the next few months, warns a former Senior Adviser to the Federal Health Minister (2014-2017).

Troy Bilsborough, who is also Managing Director of C-suite strategy consultants Provocate, said there were also no firm answers about whether vaccinated parents with a vaccine passport could shop, travel or work with unvaccinated children.

Today’s news that Pfizer planned to lodge a vaccine option for approval for 5-11 year-olds was welcome, he said, but pointed to reports it would not cover all children or be rolled out until December 2020-January 2021 – after domestic and borders opened – as proof of the risk of public and political backlash over Covid in kids.

Mr Bilsborough said the looming Federal poll increased the risk of “electionomics, not epidemiologists or economists,” ultimately deciding whether Australia reopened before Christmas – and stayed that way.

“New South Wales is undoubtedly going to be the litmus test for whether the public and politicians can live with the consequences of living with Covid, particularly while kids remain unprotected” Mr Bilsborough said.

“The medical advice is only as good as the public confidence in it and there’s been little effort to explain why a parent who catches Covid must get vaccinated or end up in the ICU, but unvaccinated children won’t.

“It requires Australia to adopt equivalent of a chicken-pox defence – better to catch it young than old – or risk any public backlash leading to a political backflip on lifting restrictions ahead of the Federal election.”

Provocate’s latest VaxEnomicTM Forecaster shows cases in children under 10 have consistently grown the fastest of any group since National Cabinet announced in late June 2021 that reopening targets would only require 70% and 80% of adults to be fully vaccinated, including:

  • AUS: 746% increase in child cases under 10 to 14,384 – triple the rate of adults (293%). The percentage of child cases as a proportion of total cases also increased from 5.6% to 12.0%.
  • NSW: 2051% increase in child cases under 10 to 6,387 – triple the rate of adults (673%). The percentage of child cases as a proportion of total cases also increased from 5.6% to 12.0%.
  • VIC: 247% increase in child cases under 10 to 4,360 – more-than double the rate of adults (101%). The percentage of child cases as a proportion of total cases also increased from 3.3% to 5.8%.
  • QLD: 116% increase in child cases under 10 to 119 – eight times the rate of adults (15%). The percentage of child cases as a proportion of total cases also increased from 3.3% to 5.8%.

While there have been no deaths of children under 10 from Covid to date, hospitalisations of children under 10 in NSW have increased to 318 since the Delta variant hit the state in June, compared to just 6 the 18 months prior. That’s seen children rise from 1% to 5% of all hospitalisations in NSW the past three months.

There are currently about four million children aged under 12 in Australia currently ineligible for a Covid vaccination – with approved vaccine options unlikely to be approved and administered fully until 2022.

While Australia has hit 80 per cent of adults (16+) with a first dose, this only equals 56% and 64% of the Australian population respectively, raising questions whether children will be protected by the herd.

Mr Bilsborough said governments also risked becoming “victims of their own success”, with expected slowing of Covid cases in adults as vaccination rates grow set to further highlight the lack of vaccination in children.

“Look at the outrage of Australians over governments being too slow to address growing numbers of Covid cases in age care residents – it’s naïve to think that same risk of public backlash and political backflips isn’t there with kids, who are yet to return to school.

“Our advice is that the growth of Covid cases in unvaccinated children in the most-overlooked danger to Australia’s economic recovery, as well as business and voter confidence over the next few months.”

Pfizer is currently seeking approval in the US for use of its vaccine in 5-11 year-olds. Even if lodged in Australia before approved elsewhere, it would unlikely to be approved, available and administered in full until the end of 2021, given the 3-6 week wait between doses, and further 14 days for maximum immunity to be achieved. Initial reports indicate Pfizer will also seek to lodge its applications sequentially in the order of 5-11 year-olds, 2-4 year-olds and then 0-2 year-olds. The latter two have been earmarked for submission for approval in the US late 2021, meaning full vaccination coverage for all ages of children likely won’t be fully approved, available and administered in Australia until 2022.

Table 1: Increase in Covid cases in Children versus Adults since the National Cabinet Decision on 30 June 2021 to begin lifting domestic and international restrictions with only adults vaccinated.

  National/ State Children (0-9) Adults (20-90+)
Pre-National Targets    (29 June) Since National Targets

(To Date)

Difference Pre- National Targets    (29 June) Since National Targets

(To Date)

Difference
Cases AUS 1700 14384 746% 25,800 88,411 293%
% of Cases AUS 5.6% 12.0% +6.4pp 84.4% 73.6% -10.8pp
% Full Vax AUS 0% 0% 0pp 17.7% 60.2% +42.5pp
Cases NSW 297 6387 2051% 5160 39863 673%
% of Cases NSW 5.4% 13.4% +8pp 94.6% 86.2% -8.4pp
% Full Vax NSW 0% 0% 0pp 17.6% 71.5% +53.9pp
Cases VIC 1,257 4,360 247% 17,375 34,861 101%
% of Cases VIC 6.1% 9.5% +3.4pp 83.9% 76.3% -7.6pp
% Full Vax VIC 0% 0% 0pp 18.0% 56.6% +38.6pp
Cases QLD 55 119 116% 1570 1801 15%
% of Cases QLD 3.3% 5.8% +2.5pp 92.8% 87.6% -5.2pp
% Full Vax VIC 0% 0% 0pp 17.1% 69.3% +52.2pp

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