The ACT is set to surpass the 50 per cent milestone for the over 12 population to be fully vaccinated this week, as vaccine bookings for 12- to 15-year-olds open.
The inclusion of people aged between 12 and 15 in the ACT's vaccination rates will add an extra week to the government achieving the key vaccination target rates of 70 and 80 per cent.
The ACT government will also assess whether an in-school COVID-19 vaccination program is needed. This will be dependent on the take-up in the 12- to 15-year-old age groups in the coming months.
As of Monday, the fully vaccinated rate in the over-12 population was 49.3 per cent. Chief Minister Andrew Barr said he anticipated this would exceed 50 per cent in the coming days. The first dose rate would also surpass 75 per cent.
The ACT exceeded these targets in the over-16 population last week but 12- to 15-year-olds are included in the territory's vaccination targets and are considered when restrictions ease at the 70 and 80 per cent thresholds. The national strategy includes only those over 16.
Pfizer bookings for 12- to 15-year-olds at general practitioners opened on Monday and appointments are set to open at the ACT government mass vaccination clinics next week. Pharmacies will start to receive Moderna vaccines from Monday, September 20.
Mr Barr said from next Monday the ACT would focus on vaccinating 12- to 15-year-olds but emphasised there were still thousands of people aged between 16 and 39 that still needed to be vaccinated. This meant people aged 12 to 15 may not be able to access bookings at the government-run clinics until November.
"It is worth looking around to see the quickest path for vaccination - we are very keen to vaccinate 12- to 15-year-olds as quickly as possible," he said.
There are about 25,000 people aged between 12 and 15 in the ACT. About 650 who have underlying health conditions have already received their vaccines.
Moderna and Pfizer are the only vaccines approved for people aged between 12 to 15.
Mr Barr has previously pushed national cabinet to include 12- to 15-year-olds in national vaccine targets. He said despite the program being opened to this age group there did not appear to be a willingness to include the group.
"I don't see a huge appetite from the Commonwealth or NSW to adopt it as part of the national plan," Mr Barr said.
Authorities had started early planning work for a school-based vaccine program before the COVID outbreak in the ACT. It was hoped a program could start as early as term four this year.
ACT Health Minister Rachel Stephen-Smith said a program was still being considered but it would depend on the take-up of the vaccine for 12- to 15-year-olds at pharmacies, general practitioners and the ACT government mass vaccine clinics.
"We'll be working through what the take up of that is like, whether there are groups where we need to go in and do more, whether there is a benefit to a school in-reach program and then what the logistics of that look like, because that is quite a significant exercise," Ms Stephen-Smith said.
"It's a very big exercise so we're still working through exactly what that is going to look like."
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The ACT government is expected to announce a staged reopening for schools on Tuesday. The plan is expected to prioritise year 12 students who have had priority vaccine bookings over the past two weeks.
Vaccine rates of students, teachers and parents will be considered as part of any reopening.
Mr Barr said it was especially important for parents of children aged under 12 to be vaccinated.
"[A] really important factor, it's very, very important, is as it relates to the parents of children under 12 years of age when there isn't an available vaccine," he said.
"This is very clear health advice and factored into the epidemiology and future models is to ensure that we vaccinate the adults as well."
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