Australian children aged between five and 11 could receive coronavirus vaccines this year after trials showed promising results overseas.
Health Minister Greg Hunt has invited Pfizer to apply to Australia’s medical regulator to have its vaccine approved for young children following clinical trials in the United States.
In a letter to Pfizer’s Australia and New Zealand managing director, Mr Hunt said the company should submit an application to the Therapeutic Goods Administration at the same time as US regulators.
“I encourage and invite Pfizer to submit a parallel application to the TGA for Australian regulatory approval at the earliest possible time,” Mr Hunt wrote.
“Should the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation also approve vaccination of this age cohort, vaccination would commence as a priority.”
It’s expected US approval for COVID vaccines for children could be finalised as early as October.
Chief Nursing Officer Alison McMillan said it was possible for younger children to be vaccinated this year if regulators gave the green light.
“The likelihood is we will see it through general practice, through a range of options,” she said.
COVID vaccines have only been approved for those aged 12 years and over.
The latest vaccination figures showed 16 per cent of 12- to 15-year-olds had received their first dose, while less than one per cent were fully immunised.
Australian Medical Association president Omar Khorshid said he expected young children to be able to be vaccinated as part of school-based programs.
Dr Khorshid said that would most likely start in early 2022, due to regulatory approval being needed by the TGA and ATAGI.
Opposition health spokesman Mark Butler said young Australians needed to be prioritised to receive the vaccine.
“Australia has been dangerously exposed in this disastrous third wave,” he said.
“We can’t see history repeat itself with our children. The government needs to do better than it did with adults.”
Professor Andrew Steer from the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute said children would be disproportionately affected and more vaccination options were needed.
“The main thing is that a multifaceted approach is needed that gives children and parents different options, whether that is a GP or through existing hubs,” he told a Senate inquiry.
The first dose rate for the national population aged over 16 now sits at almost 73 per cent, while more than 47 per cent have received two shots.
NSW reported 1022 new infections and 10 deaths on Tuesday.
Victoria had 603 cases and one death, while 16 people contracted the disease in the ACT.