Vaccine for Kids 5 to 11 Next Year: Australian Health Minister

Australian Associated Press is an Australian news agency.
December 4, 2021 Updated: December 4, 2021

Approval of COVID-19 vaccines for five- to 11-year-olds is imminent, with a January rollout likely.

Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt said the Therapeutic Goods Administration and Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation should make a call on Pfizer pediatric doses before year’s end.

It is understood the first shipment is due to arrive in Australia before Christmas.

The process is “heading in a positive direction”, Hunt said.

“(The TGA) will provide that advice, ATAGI will then provide their response and we’re hopeful that if we’ve got two green lights we would commence the children’s pediatric doses in the first part of January.”

While Jan. 10 is a possible starting date for the rollout, it could commence a week either side.

Hunt said Moderna booster doses for the general population are also on the cards, with confirmation by Christmas or sooner.

“I’m due to get my booster in the next 10 days, so that might be a very good option to show that message,” he said.

The TGA is also making progress on the protein-based Novavax vaccine and could issue a pre-Christmas approval for doses to become available in the new year.

ATAGI has decided not to shorten the six-month timeframe in which people are advised to get a booster, due to earlier boosters not being proven to provide extra protection against the Omicron variant.

Chief Medical Officer Paul Kelly said it is too early to determine whether the strain will result in increased hospitalisations or deaths, however there is evidence it is the same as, or milder than, current variants.

Australia is likely to pass 500,000 booster doses on Saturday.

Meanwhile, former deputy chief medical officer Nick Coatsworth has called into question Australia’s decision to shut the border to several African nations due to Omicron.

He said the policy is inconsistent due to the new variant being detected in other countries Australia has open travel with.

“It’s proven that Omicron isn’t just in southern African states, it’s also in Europe, it also may well have been in the Australian community,” Coatsworth told Sky News.

“It may be elsewhere in the world that we have open borders to, then the consistency of the policy of shutting travel borders to certain African states starts getting called into question.”

Australia banned flights from nine African nations in the wake of Omicron, and then later excluded the Seychelles bringing the number to eight.

Its emergence has also led to a pause on the return of international students and visa holders, while all other international travellers have to undergo quarantine measures.

There have been 15 cases of Omicron so far detected in Australia: 13 in NSW, one in the Northern Territory and one in the ACT.

Globally, more than 400 Omicron cases have been identified in 30 countries.

Australian Associated Press is an Australian news agency.