ATAGI update following weekly COVID-19 meeting – 12 January 2022
An update from the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI) following their weekly meeting on 12 January 2022.
Latest recommendation updates:
- Previously, severely immunocompromised people aged 12 years and older were recommended to receive a 3rd primary dose of COVID-19 vaccine to optimise their protection. This recommendation has now been expanded to include severely immunocompromised children aged 5 to 11 years. More information available below.
In 2022, the full ATAGI committee will continue to meet weekly to ensure the timely provision of advice to the Australian Government and in turn to health care providers and consumers regarding the administration of COVID-19 vaccines in the Australian context.
ATAGI acknowledges the significant contribution that Professors Christopher Blyth and Allen Cheng made in leading the development and consideration of advice for COVID-19 vaccines throughout 2020 and 2021. From January 2022, the ATAGI COVID-19 Working Group will be led by Professor Katie Flanagan and the Deputy Chair of ATAGI, Professor Michelle Giles.
Recent ATAGI considerations
On Wednesday 12 January 2022, ATAGI met for the first time this year and reviewed the latest developments relating to COVID-19 immunisation and COVID-19 vaccine safety. ATAGI continues to monitor COVID-19 epidemiology in Australia including the Omicron variant of concern and the timing of COVID-19 booster vaccinations as outlined in our 24 December 2021 advice.
ATAGI continues to highlight that vaccination is a key public health intervention. Australia’s COVID-19 vaccination program aims to protect all people in Australia from the harm caused by SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. Vaccination prevents serious disease and death, and reduces disease transmission. ATAGI recommends COVID-19 vaccination for all Australians from 5 years of age.
As at 12 January 2022, over 45 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines have been administered in Australia. Booster doses of COVID-19 vaccines are likely to increase protection against infection with the Omicron variant. ATAGI encourages adults aged 18 years and over to receive a booster dose as soon as they are eligible. Currently booster doses are recommended from 4 months after the primary course. As soon as practicalities allow, ATAGI recommends providing boosters to all eligible adults from a minimum of 3 months following the primary course. For more information see the latest ATAGI booster statement.
Dose intervals for vaccination of 5-11 year old children
ATAGI continues to recommend a 2 dose schedule for the 5-11 year old cohort of Comirnaty (Pfizer), 8 weeks apart. The interval can be shortened in special circumstances to a minimum of 3 weeks, for higher risk groups (such as those with medical risk factors for severe illness) in the context of ongoing community transmission.
This also includes severely immunocompromised children aged 5-11 years, who are now recommended to have three doses as part of the primary vaccine course. The 3rd primary dose guidance has been updated to include children aged 5 years and older. The recommended interval for the 3rd primary dose is 2 to 6 months after the 2nd dose of vaccine. ATAGI note this is consistent with the recent decision by the Centres for Disease Control.
Upcoming ATAGI considerations
ATAGI continues to review and consider the impacts of the ongoing Omicron outbreak across most jurisdictions in Australia. This includes providing a national approach to vaccine recommendations, both for the primary course and any subsequent booster doses.
The National Immunisation Program and the Australian Immunisation Register (AIR) have processes in place to identify whether an individual is up to date with recommended vaccines. ATAGI is now aiming to assist in formulating a decision framework regarding what is required to be considered ‘up to date’ with COVID-19 vaccines and the role of booster doses.
ATAGI also noted the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) is considering a submission on COVID-19 vaccine from Novavax.
COVID-19 vaccine safety
ATAGI continues to review and closely monitor reports of rare but potentially serious adverse events following immunisation with COVID-19 vaccines, including regular updates from the TGA. The TGA’s Weekly Report provides a detailed breakdown of adverse events following immunisation.
From 10 January 2022, children aged 5-11 can access COVID-19 vaccinations.
ATAGI notes the early vaccine safety data from the US paediatric program (5-11 year old cohort) has not identified concerning safety signals in this cohort.
ATAGI also notes international evidence from the US and France that suggests vaccination may provide some protection in adolescents aged 12 and over from a rare post-infectious inflammatory condition unique to SARS-CoV-2 infection, known as Paediatric inflammatory multisystem syndrome (PIMS-TS; also known as multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children, MIS-C).
ATAGI reinforces that the benefits of vaccination with COVID-19 vaccines in Australia and people should be aware of potential risks and benefits of vaccination as part of providing informed consent.
Resources and recent statements
ATAGI recommends review of the following key resources:
- Clinical Guidance for COVID-19 vaccination providers (new look web version of the clinical guidance)
- ATAGI recommendations on the use of a third primary dose of COVID-19 vaccine in individuals who are severely immunocompromised
- 24 December 2021: ATAGI Statement on the Omicron variant of concern and the timing of COVID-19 booster vaccination
- 17 December 2021: A statement from ATAGI about the COVID-19 Omicron variant.
- 12 December 2021: ATAGI recommendations on the use of Spikevax (Moderna) as a COVID-19 booster vaccine
- 10 December 2021: ATAGI recommendations on Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine use in children aged 5 to 11 years