Australia green-lights Pfizer vaccine for kids aged 5 to 11
MELBOURNE: Australia's medicine regulator provisionally approved yesterday the Pfizer coronavirus vaccine for children between the ages of five and 11, with the health minister saying the roll-out could begin from Jan 10.
"They (the Therapeutics Goods Administration) have made a careful, thorough assessment and determined it is safe and effective, and that it is in the interests of... children five to 11 to be vaccinated," said Health Minister Greg Hunt.
After initial delays with its general Covid-19 inoculation programme, Australia has swiftly become one of the world's most vaccinated countries, with health data showing that nearly 88 per cent of Australians over the age of 16 have now received two doses.
The vaccinations have helped slow the spread of the virus and promote a speedy economic recovery, with the government planning to raise its next year's growth forecast within weeks.
The efficacy of vaccines against the new Omicron variant, which is spreading in Australia, remains unknown.
The most populous state, New South Wales, reported two more Omicron cases yesterday, bringing the total to 15 cases, and the Australian Capital Territory confirmed its second.
Parliament House in Canberra was closed over the weekend to the public until further notice after a staffer member of Member of Parliament Adam Bandt tested positive for Covid-19 on Friday.
Australia's overall childhood immunisation coverage is also one of the highest in the world, with 95 per cent of five-year-olds inoculated with vaccines recommended for their age, health data showed.
The Pfizer vaccine for those children still needs the approval of the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation. Once approved, it will be available to about 2.3 million children aged five to 11. - REUTERS