Children aged five and under will have to be vaccinated if Australia is going to defeat the COVID-19 Delta variant, according to eminent immunologist Professor Peter Doherty.
Speaking to The Standard, Professor Doherty said the infectiousness of the Delta variant, particularly among children, meant it would no longer be sufficient to only vaccinate people over 12-years-old.
He said Warrnambool and the south-west had done an "excellent job" with its vaccine rollout, leading the state for first doses, but that kids had to be factored into the vaccination strategy as soon as possible.
"I think we should be going ahead with vaccinating down to age 12 as soon as we get enough surplus vaccine, but by October we should have the safety data on vaccinating down to age five and certainly even younger by the end of the year," he said.
Professor Doherty said that before the emergence of the COVID-19 Delta variant, experts had been "much less concerned about the risk of transmission and illness in kids".
His comments come as COVID-19 cases in children under 10 surge past the 100 mark in Victoria, with an infant in hospital, while in NSW more than 200 children were over the past weekend alone.
"It seems kids are getting more infected (by Delta) and they're probably transmitting more too," Professor Doherty said.
"Vaccines are being trialled in children down to six months, and the results should be in by the end of the year."
Professor Doherty said vaccinating the adult population should still be the first priority, adding that he didn't expect the federal government to approve vaccinations for children under 12 until "at least the end of 2021".
"Kids can be at the end of the vaccination queue, but they need to be vaccinated."
We have removed our paywall from our stories about the coronavirus. This is a rapidly changing situation and we aim to make sure our readers are as informed as possible. If you would like to support our journalists you can subscribe here.
Have you signed up to The Standard's daily newsletter and breaking news emails? You can register below and make sure you are up to date with everything that's happening in the south-west.
Sign up for our newsletter to stay up to date.