OzSage advice on protecting children from COVID-19

Burnet Institute

05 October, 2021

OzSage, the new multi-disciplinary network of Australian experts formed in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, has released new advice on the protection of children from COVID-19 and making schools and childcare safer.

Burnet Institute Director and CEO Professor Brendan Crabb AC is a co-author of the latest OzSage report which recommends:

  • Vaccinating eligible children, their parents and teachers as soon as possible
  • Ensuring access to safe indoor air through ventilation and filtration
  • Using high quality masks for children and teachers in schools
  • Providing families flexible learning options so they can make their own decisions about their children attending school in-person

“During this pandemic, nearly all unvaccinated individuals will eventually be infected. Most children in Australia are currently unvaccinated, and only children 12-and-over are eligible for vaccination presently,” the report states.

“If they are not protected, one-to-three percent of unvaccinated Australian children may become hospitalised with COVID-19, and more may suffer from ongoing symptoms lasting for a year or more.

“Paediatric wards, hospitals and health systems may become overwhelmed. School closures and educational disruption are likely.”

The authors concede that the long-term risks posed by COVID-19 to children are unclear, but given what is currently known and based on the principle of precaution, we should do what we can to protect children.

“We must learn from the successes and failures of school re-openings overseas. In San Francisco, through near universal mask use in schools and by providing safe indoor air, there have been very few instances of in-school transmission this year.

“On the other hand, in England, where neither masks nor safe air are routine in schools, and where vaccination was not recommended for 12-to-15 year-olds until September and then limited to only one dose, eight percent of school children were infected with COVID-19 within two weeks of the start of term.”

The report states that protecting children requires vaccinating children when possible, ensuring access to safe air indoor through ventilation, using high quality masks, providing families with flexible choices between home schooling and attending in-person school, and protecting children’s mental health.

OzSage aims to offer well-researched and robustly debated independent expert advice as an additional resource for federal and state governments, opposition, business, community and non-government agencies in Australia to achieve an exit strategy with the best possible health, social and economic outcomes.

Its members, including Professor Crabb, and Burnet Deputy Directors Professor Margaret Hellard AM and Associate Professor David Anderson, are drawn from frontline roles in a broad range of disciplines – from public health and infectious diseases to engineering and occupational hygiene, through to multicultural engagement and economics.

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