The Moderna COVID-19 vaccine has now been approved as the primary course for children aged 6 to 11 in Australia.
Speaking at the press conference on Feb. 23, Health Minister Greg Hunt said Moderna gives “more choice and flexibility” for parents along with the Pfizer vaccine which is approved for children aged 5 and older.
The vaccine was provisionally approved by the TGA on Feb. 17 and are available for administration from Feb. 24 following ATAGI’s announcement the day prior.
Vaccination sites for Moderna are to become available across 4,000 around the country from Feb. 24, with an additional 1,600 clinics and pharmacies expected to join the number once they have completed their training packages.
Similar to the Pfizer vaccine, the dosage for the vaccine will be half of what is administered for adults and is recommended for administration at 8 weeks intervals between the two primary doses but the time frame can be shortened to 4 weeks for children that are at risk of moderate or severe COVID-19 symptoms.
The news comes timely as the health minister announced on Feb. 22 the federal government would be moving to start mass vaccine rollouts for children via schools in a move to encourage the uptake of COVID-19 vaccines in states and territories.
TGA Considers Novavax as Boosters and for Children
The news about Moderna’s approval comes as TGA deputy secretary, John Skerritt said that the organisation is in discussions with Novavax leaders to see if the vaccine can be provisioned for children as well as boosters for adults.
The TGA are still waiting for data from Novavax. A response on further rollouts are expected from March onwards.
The news comes as 12,000 Novavax protein vaccines have been rolled out since Feb. 14 for Australians aged 18 and over, well ahead of what the government anticipated.
“We are seeing that there are people who are coming forward for Novavax who had chosen, for whatever reason, not to be vaccinated earlier, and that’s encouraging,” Skerritt said.
Additionally, the TGA is also looking into the Australian-made protein vaccine COVAX-19, which has already been approved for use in Iran.
“We also have vaccines from a couple of international companies that we’re expecting to receive submissions from. And of course, we continue to review a number of treatments.”
TGA Considers Additional Shots
When asked if four shots are being considered as the definition to “fully vaccinated” Skerritt said that they are still considering due to the flu season coming in as the country goes into winter.
“Because of masks and perhaps because of isolation from the rest of the world, we’ve had fairly extremely low flu numbers, and that’s not going to continue forever,” he said.
He said the TGA is looking into the possible impacts of flu and COVID-19 as the winter season approaches and “whether vulnerable populations would require a fourth dose, especially if they were boosted in November, December 2021, or into January 2022.”
Skerritt said that there has been “a lot of active thinking and planning” into the fourth dose and the TGA will “have to have clear positions” on it by March and April.
As of Feb. 23, 49.4 percent of children have received their first dose of the vaccine and 62.1 percent of eligible of Australians have received their boosters.