The federal government has confirmed Australian kids as young as five will be eligible for a coronavirus vaccination from January 10, pending expected approval from vaccine regulators on Friday morning.
The anticipated Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI) decision, which the Morrison government on Thursday night said it would follow, will make a one-third-strength Pfizer jab available to more than 2.2 million children aged 5 to 11.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the announcement would be welcome news for families wanting to get their children vaccinated.
“In one month from today, around 2.27 million Aussie kids aged five to 11 years will have the opportunity to roll up their sleeve and get vaccinated against COVID-19,” he said, in a statement.
“This will bring great relief to so many mums and dads, who now have a choice on what’s best for their kids.
“They can have peace of mind knowing this has the tick from the best medical regulators in the world.”
According to the government, ATAGI will recommend an eight-week gap between jabs, based on data out of Canada.
Clinical trials showed the jab was more than 90 per cent effective against lab-confirmed cases of COVID-19 and was associated with mostly mild side effects, the government said.
The interval can be shortened to three weeks during outbreaks.
Health Minister Greg Hunt encouraged all parents to get their children vaccinated against COVID-19.
“Australians can be reassured that by vaccinating their children against COVID-19 they have done everything possible to keep their child safe from this virus,” he said.
“Vaccinating children can also help reduce community transmission and help prevent children passing the virus on to younger siblings, grandparents and the wider community.
Appointments should be available for booking from late December, with the first jabs to be administered on January 10.
They will be available through GPs, Aboriginal health services, community pharmacies and state and territory clinics but individual clinics will make their own decisions about availability.
Mr Morrison said 95 per cent of five-year-olds were currently fully vaccinated against other diseases.
“Vaccinating our kids is the next step in our National Plan, which has continually provided us with a safe, step by step pathway to keeping Australians safe throughout the pandemic,” he said.
A similar approval for the Moderna vaccine, targeted to those aged 6 to 11, is still in the works.
More than 5 million United States kids aged 5 to 11 have already received at least one dose and the European Union and Canada have also approved the jab for that age group.