Strongest sign NSW primary school students won’t go back to class this year

Primary school children in New South Wales may not return to the classroom this year, as Australia awaits approval to vaccinate under 12s against COVID-19.

The NSW Chief Health Officer today gave her strongest indication yet that going back to face-to-face learning will depend on immunisation rates.

"We have effective vaccines that work, and that will be a factor that really influences the safety of school settings," Dr Kerry Chant said.

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Facing a virtual Budget Estimates Hearing, Dr Chant said vaccinating 12-15 year-olds will be "an important control strategy".

When asked if there was any chance children will go back to school before they are vaccinated, she responded "we have not concluded our form thinking."

Two more Sydney schools – Chullora and Carlton Public – were closed today due to COVID exposure, even with 95 per cent of students across the state kept home.

The US is already vaccinating 12-15-year-olds, and Australia's immunisation body ATAGI has approved the Pfizer jab for vulnerable children in that age group, but not the full cohort.

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NSW Chief Health Officer Dr Kerry Chant.

Dr Chant said she expects approval soon, hinting high schools could go back to class, before the end of the year.

"We would anticipate that if there's sufficient vaccine that can really change the dymamic of risk."

The NSW Premier, though, would not commit to a timeline.

"It will be determined by the public health team as well as education. as soon as we get that concrete advice we will communicate it, but I haven't recieved it yet," Gladys Berejiklian said.

For children under 12, the wait for a jab will be even longer, as ATAGI is relying on the results of American trials in younger age groups which aren't due back until next year.

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