Dr WOODRUFF question to PREMIER, Mr GUTWEIN
When you open the borders on 15 December, the Delta variant will circulate within Tasmania. People without high levels of vaccination will be most at risk of infection and could then transmit the virus to vulnerable others. Nearly a quarter of Tasmanians will not be fully vaccinated by 15 November. This group includes all children under 12.
The Commonwealth Government is expecting to green light vaccines for five- to 11 year-olds in January. We understand plenty of vaccines would be available in the national stock. Meanwhile, you have been silent with parents about your Government's plan to protect their children from Delta infection. Where is your plan for prioritising the vaccination of primary school-aged children and how will you reassure parents that you will keep children safe when Delta arrives?
Mr Speaker, I thank Dr Woodruff, member for Franklin, for that question. It is a very important question for parents.
First, let me touch on a couple of matters regarding the over-12s. We have recognised that we need to do more and, if you like, throw the kitchen sink at that issue. This is why we provided the incentive program on Friday to encourage more to come forward. I encourage every parent of a child currently eligible for the vaccination to bring their child forward. There are plenty of opportunities and state run clinics. We are rolling them out to schools; there are GPs, pharmacies and we will continue to do more reach in clinics.
The five- to 11 year olds are a key issue. My latest advice, as of yesterday, is that we would expect that, if the vaccination is approved for five- to 11 year-olds, that will occur in probably late January, maybe even early February.
Ms O'Connor - Delta will be here by then.
Mr GUTWEIN - The process that needs to be followed is that laid down by the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) and the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI) -
Ms O'Connor - The choice you have is about the date of opening.
Mr SPEAKER - Order. This is not a two-way conversation.
Mr GUTWEIN - The evidence is very clear across the country that the illness is not as severe for the vast majority of children as it is for adults. It is not as -
Mr SPEAKER - Order.
Mr GUTWEIN - It is not as severe for young children. That is the medical evidence we are seeing at the moment.
In terms of the steps we will take and prioritisation, as soon as, and when and if, bearing in mind that the trial conducted in the States was a very small sample. That point has been made to me on a number of occasions by the chief medical officer of this country and also the secretary of health at a national level - a very small sample - somewhere between 1500 and 3000 children. We will see what occurs with that vaccination roll out over coming months in how it impacts and protects younger children. We need to wait until we get that approval from the TGA. We will ensure that we then prioritise the vaccination roll out to focus on those five to 11 year-olds, should that approval be given.
I have already indicated to the secretary of the Department of Education that if we need to, we will look at the starting date of the school year to ensure we can get that vaccination level up to as high a level as possible.
All of the advice I have received to date is that the impact on younger children is much milder, much less severe than the impact on adults. That is evidence we are seeing from all around the world.
We will prioritise the vaccination program for five- to 11 year-olds when that becomes available. I am hopeful that will be some time in January. We will take every step to ensure that we can vaccinate that cohort as quickly as possible once we are advised that the vaccination is safe for them.