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Too early to say virus has peaked: Mark Butler

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Federal Health Minister Mark Butler says it’s still too early to tell if the peak of the current COVID-19 wave has passed, following a slight downturn in case numbers.

As Prime Minister Anthony Albanese prepares to meet state and territory leaders on Thursday morning at national cabinet to discuss the virus, Mr Butler said he was optimistic infections would continue to decrease.

“We are not calling [the end of the peak] yet. There is what we have seen through the pandemic something of a school holiday effect, where transmission appears to dip off,” he told the Nine Network.

“It does seem cases are dropping off in some states, and hospital numbers have dropped off in the last couple of weeks, [but] they’re still very large.”

Mr Albanese will join his state and territory counterparts on Thursday via video-link, where they will be updated on pandemic and monkeypox responses by chief medical officer Paul Kelly.

As well, federal Agriculture Department Secretary Andrew Metcalfe will provide a briefing on foot and mouth disease.

The meeting comes a day after Australia’s vaccine advisory group ATAGI approved the Moderna vaccine for children aged between six months and five years.

However, the vaccine has been recommended only for those children who are immunocompromised or have complex or multiple health conditions.

It’s estimated 70,000 children in the age group will be eligible for the vaccine.

Mr Butler said there would be enough vaccine doses for children to meet demand, with 500,000 ordered.

“We will be one of the first countries in the world … to secure this brand new vaccine and start rolling them out in September to give protection to some of our youngest and most vulnerable kids,” he said.

Mr Butler said ATAGI would continue to monitor the situation with COVID infections in children.

He said it was still too early to determine whether to expand the vaccine rollout to all children in the age range.

“[ATAGI] is going to continue to monitor the data that is particularly going to come out of the larger vaccination programs for this age cohort in the US and Canada and … keep it under consideration.”

Advice published by ATAGI, says there is a “very low risk” of COVID-19 in healthy children under five.

-AAP



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