Health Minister Greg Hunt has announced that the national medical regulator has approved the Pfizer vaccine for Australian children aged five to 11 with the rollout to start in January.
About 2.3 million children fall in this age cohort with the Therapeutic Goods Administration confirming the dose given to the children will be one-third of the amount administered to people aged 12 and over — because of their active immune systems and that it will provide the same level of protection.
The vaccine will be given in two doses at least three weeks apart as it has been done with other age groups.
Mr Hunt said the rollout would start from January 10 before the start of the new school year — subject to advice from the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation.
“The Therapeutic Goods Administration, Australia’s medical regulator, has approved access for five to 11-year-olds to the Pfizer vaccine.,” Mr Hunt said on Sunday.
“They have made a careful, thorough assessment — determined that it is safe and effective and that it is in the interests of children and Australians for children five to 11 to be vaccinated.”
Mr Hunt said the Pfizer vaccine was recommended for children right across Australia.
“It is about keeping our kids safe, keeping our families safe, keeping all Australians safe,” he said.
“This is the children’s dose of Pfizer. Children’s Moderna is also being considered by the TGA and they will form a view that based on the data in the coming weeks.
“There are plenty of vaccines, plenty of options for every Australian child between five to 11 to be vaccinated.”
It comes after a child in Victoria under the age of 10 died with COVID in November — becoming the youngest person in Australia to die with the virus.
TGA head Professor John Skerritt gave parents confidence in the vaccine by saying vaccinating young children would provide the protection that enabled them to “live a normal life”.
“I couldn’t imagine, if I was a young kid, having had two years of interrupted school, not being able to play sport and all the normal social things like catching up with friends,” Professor Skerritt said.
“The effects on social and educational and sporting and physical development of these kids as being affected by COVID and the ability to vaccinate those kids so that they can return to those activities… is a real step ahead.
“We do know that kids often transmit the virus back to their families. About two thirds do, and at a lower rate they also transmit the virus within the broader school context.”
Professor Skerritt went on to say that about one in five of all COVID cases fell in the under 12 age group, and that the side effects from the vaccine was the same as what adults had experienced.
“The efficacy is essentially the same in adults as it is in this group so we are confident in the performance,” he said.
“There were no safety signals, as we call them. No safety problems identified in most trials. The children had some of the same things that adults get, tiredness, sore arms, headache, and so forth.
“But these tended to be brief and fairly short-lived. We are confident in the safety of this.”
Other countries rolling out Pfizer to the same age group include the US and Canada. Several European countries and Israel have also approved it.
Nationally, 87.9 per cent of Australians aged 16 or over are fully vaccinated, and 92.8 per cent have had at least one dose of a COVID vaccine.
WA is still lagging behind the rest of the country with 77 per cent of the eligible population double-dosed.