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Child vaccine rollout passes new milestone

Australia’s COVID-19 vaccine rollout has passed another milestone, with four-in-five of all 12- to 15-year-olds now fully vaccinated against the virus.

It comes as the country on Wednesday recorded the highest number of new daily cases for more than two months.

The most recent vaccination figures showed the double-vaccination rate for the age group passed the 80 per cent mark.

Those in the 12-15 age group are not yet eligible to receive a booster dose, with third doses only available to those 16 and over.

However, the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation is considering data from the pharmaceutical company Pfizer to allow a third dose to be approved for 12- to 15-year-olds.

The expert panel is reviewing data on epidemiology, serious illness and its use in the age group overseas.

Nationally, 66,974 cases were registered on Wednesday, the highest daily number of infections for more than two months.

The last time national daily case numbers were higher, it was more than 75,000 – recorded on January 20 during the height of the summer Omicron wave.

On Wednesday, there were 34 deaths recorded including 15 in NSW, seven in Victoria, five in Queensland, three in Western Australia, two in South Australia, and one in both the Northern Territory and Tasmania.

It comes as Australia’s booster rate climbed to 67.7 per cent of the eligible population, according to the latest statistics.

From next week, a fourth dose – or second booster – will be rolled out to older and vulnerable Australians, ahead of a predicted winter surge of cases.

People over 60, Indigenous Australians over 50, those in aged and disability care, as well as people who are immunocompromised, will be among the groups able to receive their fourth dose.

However, ATAGI has not recommended a fourth dose for the broader population.

Experts have warned the upcoming winter could see the virus coincide with rising flu cases, the first time the country has experienced an influenza season since the start of the pandemic more than two years ago.

Earlier this week, the federal government outlined $6 billion in the 2022/23 budget for winter preparedness to deal with the combined threat of COVID-19 and the flu.

A further $1 billion will be spent on extending the vaccine rollout, as people prepare to receive their second booster, while $546 million will go towards extending the Medicare Benefits Schedule for pathology items used for testing.

The budget papers showed community transmission will continue, with a predicted new Omicron wave expected to see increased rates of absenteeism and put pressure on supply chains.

Intermittent Omicron waves are also predicted beyond winter but high vaccination rates are expected to lessen the impact.

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