Over 108,000 Australians have signed a petition to the federal Parliament against the use of vaccines on adolescents aged 12 to 16.
The petition comes after the nation’s immunisation advisory body approved the use of the Pfizer vaccine (Comirnaty) on Australians aged 12 to 15 from Sept. 13 onwards.
The petition, Immediately Stop COVID-19 Vaccines for children aged 12-16, which closed on Sept. 1, was signed by 108,892 individuals claiming mass vaccination of children would be a “gamble” on their lives.
“There is no short, medium, or long-term data to support the benefits outweigh the risk for this age group, this is a gamble on children’s lives and the largest experiment known to man,” the petition read.
It noted data from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention in the United States, that found infection and death rates for young Americans (aged 0 to 15) were low compared to other age groups.
“The vaccines are in experimental phase—trials are incomplete, and approvals were given without complete safety and efficacy data being available,” it added.
The Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI) approved the vaccination of young Australians last week, saying, “There is high level evidence indicating strong immunogenicity and vaccine efficacy against symptomatic COVID-19 in adolescents from clinical trials of Comirnaty (Pfizer) and Spikevax (Moderna).”
Prime Minister Scott Morrison has backed the move saying it would speed up the vaccination rate of the entire population.
“There’s 1.2 million (12 to 15-year-olds) across Australia, and you can see that when we can get 1.8 million doses done in just a week, then the task of ensuring that we can also, in parallel, vaccinate 1.2 million 12 to 15-year-olds and achieve the levels that we would need to achieve there, is a task that is certainly well within the capability of the vaccination program,” he told reporters on Aug. 26.
Chief Medical Officer Paul Kelly said more children were being infected in 2021, partly because more adults were being vaccinated.
“While the numbers are there and we are finding cases in children, most are in family clusters, some have been related to school clusters,” he said. “But almost entirely, the disease in children is much less severe than it is in adults.”
Vaccinations are the key metric for Australia to move away from relying on frequent lockdowns and ongoing health restrictions.
The National Cabinet—an intergovernmental body involving the prime minister and state and territory leaders—agreed on a four-stage vaccination roadmap in late July.
The country is currently working towards the 70 percent mark—Phase B of the roadmap—which will see stay-at-home orders and restrictions largely removed around the country.
Australian leaders had largely relied on restrictions to stem the spread of COVID-19—at times locking down an entire city once a single case was discovered.
The spread of the Delta variant, however, has forced a change in the narrative, with the federal government, and the New South Wales and Victorian premier recognising that zero transmission of COVID-19, and its variants, is unachievable.
On Aug. 21, thousands of Australians across major metropolitan centres in Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide, Brisbane, Perth, and Coolangatta-Tweed Heads, took to the streets against COVID-19 lockdowns.