Australian anti-vaccine campaigners share false claim High Court 'banned' Covid jabs for children

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The High Court of Australia has rejected social media posts claiming it ordered a stop to the rollout of Pfizer and Moderna Covid-19 vaccines for children. A spokesperson said the court made no such decision, contrary to false Facebook posts that celebrated the "announcement" and branded the jabs as unsafe and ineffective. The health department said both vaccines were still available for children and recommended immunisation for children aged five and over, or from six months for children with health conditions.

"We won the high court case against ATAGI and TGA Today and Moderna and Pfizer will no longer be available to children 0-6 and up!" reads a Facebook post shared on December 30.

"The government have started to remove (RECALL) all covid vaccines from the Australian market as they are not safe or effective in the prevention of Covid-19."

The ATAGI -- which advises the Australian government on immunisation -- and the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) medical regulator both operate under the health department.

The same text circulated in Facebook posts, including here, here, here and here, which praised the "very important announcement".

Many posts attributed the claim to Graham Hood, an anti-vaccine mandate campaigner and ex-pilot for Australian airline Qantas who quit his job after the firm said it would make Covid-19 vaccines mandatory for staff.

A screenshot of the false post captured on January 6, 2023

Australia recommends Covid-19 vaccination for healthy children aged five and over, lowering this to six months of age for children with health conditions that increase their risk of falling seriously ill from the disease.

Health experts stress that the benefits of vaccination far outweigh the risks, but that has not stopped a deluge of misinformation about vaccine safety, often fuelled by unverified self-reporting of adverse events and fanned by politicians, broadcasters and anti-vaccine groups.

A representative for the High Court of Australia said it had not ordered a halt to Covid-19 vaccination for children.

"There was no decision in the High Court involving these matters," the spokesperson told AFP on January 4.

While an anti-vaccine group has asked the High Court to invalidate the health minister's decision to grant approval for the Moderna vaccines for children, the court spokesperson said the case was ongoing.

The Australian Vaccination-risks Network (AVN) argued the filing was to "protect babies" from the jab, which it said was "unsafe and unnecessary".

In March 2022, the Federal Court of Australia dismissed a case from the same group -- -- which has spread misinformation about Covid-19 vaccination -- seeking to scrap the approval of Pfizer, AstraZeneca and Moderna vaccines.

Updated Moderna jab

A representative for Australia's health department said that Pfizer and Moderna Covid-19 vaccines were still available for at-risk children aged between six months and five years.

Australia is gradually replacing the Moderna vaccine with an updated "bivalent" Moderna jab to protect against both the original coronavirus strain and the Omicron variant BA.1.

This updated Moderna jab has not yet been approved for children, but they can continue accessing the original Moderna jab until May 2023, the spokesperson said.

After that date, the original Moderna jab will no longer be available.

According to the health department website, both the original and bivalent Moderna Covid-19 vaccines "provide significant protection from severe disease against Omicron subvariant infections".

The Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine is available to all children aged five to 18, while the Novavax jab is available to children aged 12 and over.