A coronavirus vaccine for children as young as five has taken a step closer and could be available early in the new year.
The Therapeutic Goods Administration has approved a Pfizer vaccine for five to 11 year olds.
Health Minister Greg Hunt says subject to final checks from the vaccination experts on the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation, the federal government will start rolling out the Pfizer vaccine to 5- to 11-year-olds from January 10.
“It is about keeping our kids safe, keeping our families safe, keeping all Australians safe,” Mr Hunt told reporters in Melbourne on Sunday.
“In terms of the vaccination program, that continues to go from strength to strength.”
TGA deputy secretary John Skerritt says the vaccine will be one-third the dose of the adult version but have the same vaccine molecule and will come in a different colour.
“We are confident in the safety of this,” Professor Skerritt told reporters.
“We have joined a number of other countries, although we are among the first. The United States has been rolling out this vaccine for about three weeks. Canada has started its rollout, Europeans and the Israelis have also approved it.”
The decision comes against the back drop worries over the new coronavirus Omicron variant.
Christmas travel plans of thousands of Australians from the nation’s two biggest states are in doubt, with South Australia tightening its border over concerns about the new virus strain.
Another SA lockout?
Premier Steven Marshall hasn’t rejected locking out travellers from NSW, Victoria and the ACT only days after they were welcomed back for the first time in months.
“It may become necessary. I hope it doesn’t,” he said in a press conference on Saturday, before SA reported five new cases amid its unfolding outbreak.
“We would only do that if we wanted to make sure that we still enjoy a Christmas here in SA. This is a balancing act.”
Chief Public Health Officer Professor Nicola Spurrier on Saturday recommended to the state’s COVID-19 directions committee that borders be shut.
But instead the committee agreed to require all arrivals from NSW, Victoria and the ACT be tested upon arrival.
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.
NSW reported 286 new cases and one death on Sunday.
In Victoria, a further 980 new infections and seven more deaths were added. The state is yet to find an Omicron infection despite managing more than 14,000 active COVID cases.
There were three local cases announced in Queensland on Saturday and four in hotel quarantine, one of them a possible Omicron infection linked to a visitor from South Africa.
The ACT reported seven new local cases, one suspected to be Omicron.