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Teen booster approved amid slow jab uptake

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With schools closed, shots for tetanus and other routine inoculations were missed. Photo: Getty
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More people will soon be able to get a COVID-19 booster shot after the medical regulator granted provisional approval for a third dose of the Pfizer vaccine for 16 and 17-year-olds.

The Therapeutic Goods Administration said 16 and 17-year-olds would be able to get the COVID-19 booster in the same dosage as adults.

A final green light is still needed from Australia’s leading vaccine advisory group ATAGI before the boosters are rolled out further.

Currently, only those 18 and older have been able to get the booster.

The medical regulator is still monitoring trials of vaccine boosters for younger children.

The booster decision came as federal, state and territory leaders debated whether to change the definition of fully vaccinated to require a third dose.

No decision was made on the issue at Thursday’s national cabinet meeting, with the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation continuing to consider the issue.

However, it would be up to individual jurisdictions to update their respective public health orders, should the definition change.

Defence Minister Peter Dutton said such a decision to change the definition of fully vaccinated was for medical experts to decide.

“The main message is just to encourage people to get their booster shot,” Mr Dutton told the Nine Network on Friday.

“We want to make sure we have sufficient protection, and it is obvious you need the booster and out of all the data available, people that have the booster shot are less likely to have a more severe case of Omicron.”

Labor deputy leader Richard Marles said booster rates remained low across the country.

“Where we stand relative to the rest of the world, we have had a slow rollout of the booster and that comes on the back of a very slow rollout of the vaccine proper last year,” he said.

“Other parts of the world are going in that direction (to make three vaccine doses be defined as fully vaccinated) but that is a matter to be listening to the medical advisers.”

Infectious diseases expert Professor Sanjaya Senanayake said the decision by the TGA to approve boosters for teenagers was a significant step forward.

“We know in terms of Omicron in terms of getting disease and protection from hospitalisation, a booster dose does make a difference,” he told the Nine Network.

“In other parts of the world like the US, we are seeing younger people get a booster dose, in fact they have approved a booster dose for 12 to 15-year-olds.”

NSW on Thursday reported 29 deaths and 117,316 cases, while Victoria had 13,755 cases and 15 deaths.

There were another 15 deaths and 11,600 cases in Queensland, while South Australia had 13 deaths and 1953 cases.

The ACT racked up 884 infections, Tasmania 726 and the Northern Territory 626.

-AAP