Children as young as five will now be able to get a COVID-19 vaccine.
Australia’s leading vaccination advisory group gave the final approval for the Pfizer vaccine to be administered to children aged between five and 11-years-old from early next year.
About 2.3 million children will be able to receive the vaccine from January 10, with bookings for the age cohort to open from late December.
The Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation recommended doses be spaced eight weeks apart for the age group.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison said Australia would be one of the first countries in the world to offer the COVID-19 vaccine for children.
“As a parent, there are no more important decisions that you make than those about the health and wellbeing of your children,” he told reporters in Sydney.
“This is another important step forward in our vaccination program.”
It’s expected GPs and pharmacies will largely be delivering doses of the vaccines to children.
Individual jurisdictions will be responsible for school-based rollouts should they decide to use that strategy.
Mr Morrison said the January 10 start date for child vaccines would allow for five to 11-year-olds to get their first dose before the start of the next school year.
“It gives ample opportunity, but it’s a decision for parents, they make the health decisions for their children and we provide them the opportunity to do that,” he said.
Advice from ATAGI about giving children aged between six and 11 the Moderna jab is expected over coming weeks.
Health Minister Greg Hunt said the decision on Pfizer would give parents confidence and choice.
“It protects our children, it protects their families, and it protects their schools and so these are really important steps,” he said.
“This has been a challenge for all of us but I tell you what, Australians have risen to that challenge.”
Immunisation expert Margie Danchin said the approval for children would mean transmission of the virus would reduce, particularly in schools.
“We do anticipate that the vaccine will have an impact on transmission in schools, but also in households as well, so that is a very important indirect consideration for these vaccines,” she told ABC Radio on Friday.
“I think parents are really going to welcome this news.”
The decision on child vaccines comes ahead of the last national cabinet meeting for the year on Friday.
All jurisdictions but Western Australia have reached the 80 per cent double vaccinated.
“My position hasn’t changed for all premiers and chief ministers and to implement the national plan we’ve agreed to,” Mr Morrison said.
“We’ve got one more state to get through that gate.”
WA is at 79 per cent fully vaccinated for those in the state 16 and over.