COVID-19 vaccines for Australians aged five to 11 set to start next month

School-aged children are set to start receiving their coronavirus vaccine in the middle of next month after a major regulatory hurdle was cleared.

In what will be welcome news for parents across Australia, the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) has declared the Pfizer vaccine is safe and effective for children aged five to 11.

The Morrison government expects the rollout for the cohort to start on January 10, subject to final approval from the nation's expert vaccine panel, known as ATAGI, and the results of batch testing.

The expert panel's advice is expected within weeks, with the first shipment of doses expected to arrive on Australia's shores by early next year.

Health Minister Greg Hunt said the vaccine rollout for school-age children was one step closer after the TGA's approval. Picture: Sitthixay Ditthavong

Health Minister Greg Hunt said the vaccine rollout for school-age children was one step closer after the TGA's approval. Picture: Sitthixay Ditthavong

The government says it has a deal with Pfizer to deliver enough supplies to immunise the approximately 2.3 million school-aged children in Australia.

"There is nothing more important than the health of our children," Prime Minister Scott Morrison said.

"That's why we made sure these vaccines got the rigorous review of Australia's top health experts. These vaccines will help keep Australians safe - young and old. This will mean peace-of-mind for parents and teachers knowing children are protected."

"Ultimately, the more Australians who get vaccinated the more we can secure our recovery from this pandemic too with less disruption to schooling and home life."

The TGA continues to examine Moderna's application for approval of its vaccine on six- to 11-year-olds.

ATAGI chair Allen Cheng has previously indicated he wanted to see vaccine safety data from the US before giving the green light for children aged five to 11 to receive the jab in Australia.

The virus has been found to be far more mild for children than adults.

A study on the spread of the virus in schools and daycare centres during the NSW outbreak, conducted by the National Centre for Immunisation Research and Surveillance, found 98 per cent of children who became infected developed only mild symptoms - if any at all.

School-aged children should receive the vaccines at least three weeks apart like the rest of the population, however each dose would be one-third the usual level.

The government was hopeful the uptake of the vaccine among young children would be as rapid as it had been for 12- to 15-year-olds.

Two-thirds of that group were fully vaccinated less than three months after they become eligible for the jab. More than 87 per cent of Australians aged over 16 were fully vaccinated.

Health Minister Greg Hunt said the government was prepared to respond to any scenario recommended by the expert vaccine panel.

"Our government has been working closely with the manufacturer Pfizer, vaccine providers and states and territories, to ensure Australian children will have access to this safe and effective vaccine as a priority," he said.

This story 'Peace of mind for parents': COVID vaccines for kids set to start in January first appeared on The Canberra Times.

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