The Pfizer vaccine has received approval from the Australian drug body for use among children aged between 12 to 15.
Announcing the approval on Friday, Health Minister Greg Hunt said the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) had thoroughly and independently, assessed the domestic and international evidence before extending its approval for the vaccine.
“As with all of our vaccination decisions associated with the COVID-19 pandemic, the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI) will now consider this approval and provide expert advice on which groups of adolescents should be prioritised for the roll out of the vaccine and how and when it should be administered,” Hunt said.
Up until now, the Pfizer vaccine had only been approved for use in Australia for people aged 16 years and over.
Hunt noted that the National COVID-19 Vaccines Taskforce has been investigating the rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine for children, with a final decision on the rollout expected next week.
If ATAGI gives the green light, it is expected that children with impaired immune systems or underlying medical conditions will be immediately added to the vaccine rollout and able to access Pfizer.
Hunt also said once approved, the government would fast-track its rollout for children with greater health risks.
“On the early advice, I have,” Hunt told Channel 7’s Sunrise program on Friday. “They will fast track vaccines for 12-15 year-olds for the immunocompromised children, or those with underlying health conditions, and then they’ll review the incoming data over the course of the next month on the general population.
However, it is expected that vaccination of children will begin until all adults have had their shots. The minister also noted that adults under the age of 40 would be unable to jab as the government was still waiting on a portion of Pfizer stock to arrive in September or early October.
Earlier this week, British authorities approved vaccines for use among children with severe disabilities or health conditions.
The UK regulator decided against giving vaccinations to under-18s without underlying health conditions.
In the United States, the Pfizer vaccine was approved for 12 to 15-year-olds earlier this year.
U.S. President Joe Biden on Thursday was optimistic that children under 12 would be approved for vaccination in the coming months.
The head of the World Health Organisation has called for governments to immediately vaccinate healthy children before frontline workers or high-risk groups.