Former deputy chief medical officer Nick Coatsworth has called on state governments to exempt children from mandatory vaccination laws, warning there is emerging evidence that getting jabbed should remain a choice for parents of under 12s.
Children as young as six could soon be offered the Moderna jab after Australia’s vaccine watchdog announced the brand has been granted provisional determination.
But Dr Coatsworth, who was the “face” of the nation’s Covid response and vaccine rollout campaign in taxpayer-funded advertisements, has cautioned against the rush to vaccinate younger children.
While a strong proponent of vaccination for adults and teenagers, he told news.com.au that the risks of severe illness from Covid remained low for younger children.
And he warned the low risk of severe illness needed to be weighed against the risk of vaccination in rare cases for children.
“Whilst I encourage parents to vaccinate their 12-15 year-old children, the risk of myocarditis especially in young boys is sufficient that parents have every right to wait for more data or to decline vaccination,’’ he said.
“In doing so, the child must not then be subject to differential public health treatment which is effectively ‘mandating’ by regulation.”
Myocarditis is an inflammation of the heart muscle, and pericarditis is inflammation of the outer lining of the heart.
It has been reported most commonly in males under 30 years of age, and most commonly after the second vaccine dose.
But most myocarditis and pericarditis linked to vaccination have been mild.
In light of these rare but documented risks, Dr Coatsworth said that parents should vaccinate younger children based on choice and medical advice but that state governments should not mandate the vaccine for kids.
And he’s lashed the Victorian government for introducing mandates for teenage children to enter some premises.
“In Victoria in particular, the chief health officer is breaching the fundamental ethical principle of autonomy in differential treatment of unvaccinated 12-15 year olds,’’ he said.
“It is of deep concern that Victorian public health officials are making these decisions, and is prima facie evidence why the pandemic bill in Victoria requires more opportunities for parliamentary oversight and administrative appeals against these decisions.
“There is no need for this policy when the vulnerable age groups are well in excess of 90 per cent vaccinated.”
Some parents in Victoria have recently complained they were blindsided by rules that meant children aged between 12 and 15 would need to be fully vaccinated against Covid-19 from November to enter shops, go to a family dinner at the pub or attend some school functions.
But Covid commander Jeroen Weimar said people would “have to have been living under a rock” to not realise the new rules were coming into force and that nearly 90 per cent of teenagers were vaccinated anyway.
“I guess I don’t have much sympathy for that argument,” Mr Weimar said.
Australia has recorded more than 27,000 Covid cases in Australia among children aged zero to nine, and recent data suggests 2.5 per cent of them were hospitalised.
Currently, Pfizer and Moderna continue to be recommended for all people aged 12 years and above.