The Australian Government Chief Medical Officer, Professor Paul Kelly, has been working with New South Wales, Victoria and the Australian Capital Territory on a proposal to support the return of Australian children, within family groups, from overseas.
The Government receives advice from the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI) in relation to key vaccination decisions. The ATAGI advice has been that all persons aged 12 and over should be classified as fully vaccinated if a person has had 2 doses (or 1 if it is a single dose vaccine) of a TGA recognised or approved vaccine 14 days apart, plus 7 days after. Subject to state and territory requirements, persons arriving in Australia who are fully vaccinated are not required to enter 14 day mandatory, government managed quarantine.
Although children aged 12–17 years old are able to be fully vaccinated in Australia, this is not consistent around the world. The Chief Medical Officer is concerned about the unintended implications of the requirement being applied at the border, particularly the potential for separating children from their families. As a result, Professor Kelly has been working with jurisdictions ready to receive international flights or travellers to agree a class exemption for those aged 12–17 years.
New South Wales, Victoria and the Australian Capital Territory have agreed to apply an exemption for those Australians aged 12–17 to arrive from overseas who do not meet the criteria for fully vaccinated.
The affected adolescents will be required to undertake a test within 24 hours of arrival into Australia and quarantine at home for 7 days. A second test will be required on day 5 prior to completion of quarantine. They may attend school after completing 7 days home quarantine. Additionally, 12–17 year olds not fully vaccinated will not be allowed to visit other high risk settings such as disability facilities, aged-care residential facilities and hospitals until 14 days after arrival.
This exemption will support safe reopening of international borders whilst ensuring Australian families with children, in countries with different vaccine eligibility settings or without a recognised or approved vaccine, can return to Australia and remain with their families on immediate return.
Professor Kelly thanks New South Wales, Victoria and the Australian Capital Territory for their support in facilitating the return of Australian children to Australia.
Information about the Australian Government’s response to COVID-19 is available at: www.australia.gov.au.