Parents across Australia are now able to book COVID-19 vaccinations for their children aged 5 to 11.
Bookings opened from Dec. 15, with inoculations for this age group set to commence on Jan.10 through state and territory-run clinics, pharmacies, Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services, and Commonwealth Vaccination Centres.
Children aged 5 to 11 will receive two doses of the Comirnaty (Pfizer) vaccine, eight weeks apart, and the dose will be one third that of kids aged 12 and over.
According to the TGA, this provisional approval was granted based on careful consideration of data from clinical trials carried out in the United States, Finland, Poland, and Spain, which included participants aged between 5 and 11.
These trials demonstrated that the vaccine’s effectiveness in this age group is similar to that in the older age groups. At the same time, the observed side effects were mild and included injection site pain, fatigue, headache, injection site redness and swelling, muscle pain, and chills.
As well as requiring TGA approval, the rollout of the vaccine to 5 to 11-year-olds was subject to considerations and recommendations from the vaccination experts on the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI).
After reviewing clinical data from Canada, ATAGI recommended the eight-week interval between shots, which may be shortened to three weeks in extreme circumstances such as a major outbreak.
In a media release on Dec. 10, Health Minister Greg Hunt welcomed ATAGI’s recommendations, saying they would reassure parents, carers, and guardians.
“Australians can be reassured that by vaccinating their children against COVID-19, they have done everything possible to keep their child safe from this virus,” he said.
“Vaccinating children can also help reduce community transmission and help prevent children passing the virus on to younger siblings, grandparents and the wider community.”
Hunt encouraged all parents to get their kids vaccinated against COVID-19.
However, Former Deputy Chief Medical Officer Nick Coatsworth has reservations when it comes to vaccinating children under 12.
He told News.com in November that the risk to young children of serious illness from COVID-19 is minimal, highlighting that this low risk of disease has to be weighed against the risk of adverse events from the vaccine.
“Whilst I encourage parents to vaccinate their 12-15-year-old children, the risk of myocarditis especially in young boys is sufficient that parents have every right to wait for more data or to decline vaccination,” he said.
Myocarditis is inflammation of the heart, and according to the TGA, it may rarely occur after vaccination, with the mRNA vaccines Comirnaty (Pfizer) and Spikevax (Moderna). Cases typically occur within ten days of vaccination and usually resolve after a few weeks of treatment and rest.
The TGA states that in Australia, the condition is reported in around 1 in every 100,000 people after receiving the Comirnaty vaccine and most commonly occurs in young men and teenage boys after the second dose.
According to the TGA’s Database of Adverse Event Notifications, as of Dec. 13, 988 cases of myocarditis associated with COVID-19 vaccines had been reported in Australia, with three deaths.