ACT Senator Katy Gallagher on Tuesday slapped down allegations by Queensland Senator Gerard Rennick that children were being treated as an experiment in the rollout of COVID-19 vaccines.
Senator Gallagher, who was chairing a public hearing of the Select Committee on COVID-19, told Senator Rennick she would have "done anything" to have her children vaccinated rather than contract COVID-19.
"Well maybe you need to talk to a few parents who have watched their kids struggle to breathe with COVID to understand the value of a vaccination program," she told the senator.
Senator Gallagher also clarified that "the committee does not believe that there are experiments being conducted on children".
"Well give me a call Senator Rennick and I'll let you know what it's like and I can guarantee I would have done anything to get my kid vaccinated rather than get COVID-19."
Senator Gallagher spoke from personal experience, after her daughter contracted COVID-19 in September, and she was left to care for her family in isolation.
Senator Rennick had questioned whether clinical trial data available for children was sufficient for the planned rollout to this cohort from mid-January.
The Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) on Saturday declared the Pfizer vaccine as safe and effective for children aged five to 11, with final approval still to come from Australia's expert vaccine panel ATAGI.
Co-chair of ATAGI Professor Christopher Blyth said that the body was referring to a small clinical trial of 1500 children in addition to large amounts of data collected from various international bodies.
"That is why we've actually gone to international bodies that have been collecting these data," Professor Blyth said.
"Nearly five million US children have been vaccinated, we have been looking very closely at this data to find out what they're really seeing."
Senator Rennick questioned whether "that's ethical to be treating children as an experiment", asking, "If you're effectively saying, well, we're going to just roll it out and then use the children as an experiment rather than actually conduct longer trials?"
Professor Blyth rejected the allegation: "What we do when we assess a vaccine, we look at the benefits and the risks," he said.
"We've actually taken a cautious approach, taken our time to assess, but actually, that is not an experiment that is basically using data to inform the rollout of a program."
Earlier he said he had "no significant safety concerns" about rolling out Pfizer vaccines to this group of children.
Senator Rennick also sparred with Chief Medical Officer Professor Paul Kelly, who shot down false claims the senator made about vaccine efficacy.
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"In regards to the transmission, you have to admit that the vaccines haven't stopped transmission ... It's well known that people transmit the virus, so I don't get necessarily buy into that," Senator Rennick said.
"On the transmission and reduction, that's not my opinion, that's the science," Professor Kelly said.
"There's definitely a decrease in transmission from the virus ... it's not my opinion, that's what that studies show."
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