Children aged 12 to 15 could be vaccinated in Australia at the end of this year or early next year in an effort to fight the Delta strain of Covid-19.
Australia’s drug regulator, the TGA, is currently reviewing an application from Pfizer to have its shot approved in the country for that age group.
The vaccine has already been approved for children over the age of 12 in countries such as the US, Canada, Germany, Japan, France and Italy.
A health worker administers a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine to a minor at a vaccination center in Santiago, Chile, on June 23
Trials for children under 12 are currently underway to determine safety and dosage, results are expected in a few months and a decision in the US is expected in early 2022.
NSW Prime Minister Gladys Berejiklian said vaccinating teenagers is crucial to securing freedom.
She previously said the state wants 80 percent of adults to be shot — meaning 10 million doses would have been administered — before the restrictions are lifted, but now she wants children to be included in the threshold.
“Vaccination related to the Delta strain doesn’t necessarily mean just adults, and that’s where the 10 million shots came from,” she told reporters Monday.
Chief Health Officer Kerry Chant explained why the Delta tribe has changed the equation.
“We see more infections from children spreading, which is not the characteristic we had seen in previous strains,” she said.
“It means we need to rethink our role in vaccinating children. It is gratifying to see that in some countries we have vaccines approved for use in children overseas in some countries, and I know that the regulator, the TGA, is constantly considering the vaccine.”
A health worker wears a protective face mask and gloves as she gives a Pfizer/BioNTech covid-19 shot to a teenager in Warsaw, Poland, on June 26
When asked when children in Australia can be vaccinated, Dr Chant said: ‘If we have more vaccines and we’ve done the hard work to vaccinate the adult population.’
Every Australian adult is expected to be offered a vaccine before the end of the year, meaning children could get shots late this year or early next year.
Meanwhile, a million doses of Pfizer have reached Australia as the country’s slow vaccine rollout ramps up.
A shipment of 800,000 doses landed in Sydney on Sunday evening with a further 200,000 divided between Perth and Melbourne.
The federal government has secured an earlier delivery of its 40 million Pfizer vaccines, yielding 1 million a week from now until at least the end of August.
Airport staff pull out the Pfizer vaccines after arriving at Sydney Airport on Sunday night
Aussies over 40 are eligible for a Pfizer shot, and under 40s are expected to get the call in late September or early October.
“September, early October is likely, but if we can bring that forward, we will,” Health Secretary Greg Hunt said on Sunday.
About 18,000 Australians under the age of 40 have taken the AstraZeneca vaccine, which is available to those over the age of 18, but is only recommended for those over 60 due to a low risk of serious blood clots in younger people.
Only 13.59 percent of Aussie adults have had two doses of a Covid vaccine, compared with 48.6 percent of Canadians, 48.4 percent of Americans and 68.3 percent of Britons.
Covid-19 task force chief Lieutenant General John Frewen said more GPs will be getting the Pfizer doses to accelerate the rollout.
A shipment of 800,000 doses (pictured) landed in Sydney on Sunday night with another 200,000 split between Perth and Melbourne
The federal government has secured an earlier delivery of its 40 million Pfizer vaccines, yielding 1 million a week from now until at least the end of August. Pictured: Vaccines unloading
“By the end of the month we will have 1,300 GPs who can administer Pfizer,” he said.
On July 8, the government announced a deal with Pfizer to bring in at least one million vaccines per week from July 19, meaning more than 4.5 million injections will arrive by August.
Previously, only three million doses were expected in August and 4.5 million in September.
It’s because 12 million Australians are stuck in lockdown due to recent outbreaks in Sydney and Melbourne.
Victoria registered a further 13 community-acquired coronavirus cases on Monday, all of which were linked to existing outbreaks.
The number of locations for coronavirus exposure in the state has risen to more than 270.
Victorian Prime Minister Daniel Andrews is widely expected to extend the state’s five-day lockdown, which ends at midnight on Tuesday.
Pictured: A plane carrying 100,000 Pfizer vaccines landed in Perth on Sunday night
It comes as 12 million Australians are stuck in lockdown over recent outbreaks in Sydney and Melbourne (pictured Sunday)
NSW registered 98 new cases on Monday as Sydney enters another week of lockdown.
Construction work in Sydney has been halted for 14 days, leaving hundreds of thousands of people out of work.
Business and union groups have warned that the restrictions will cost the economy more than $700 million a week, in addition to previous forecasts.
But authorities say the construction shutdown is necessary to help stop the spread of the coronavirus, given the high number of cases recorded among people who are contagious in the community.
NSW reported 105 cases and the death of a woman in her 90s on Sunday, the fourth fatality in the latest outbreak.
At this stage, the Sydney lockdown will end on July 30.
Why has the vaccine rollout in Australia been so slow?
Australia’s rollout began in late February, more than two months after the UK and US, as there was no need to rush emergency vaccine approvals.
The first setback came in March when the EU banned the export of continent-made vaccines, causing 3.1 million of the 3.8 million doses of AstraZeneca to fail to arrive in Australia on time.
As a result, Prime Minister Scott Morrison missed his goal of vaccinating four million Aussies at 85 percent by the end of March.
In April, the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunization recommended that Australia’s main vaccine and the only one that can make it ashore, the AstraZeneca shot, should not be given to patients under the age of 50 because of a very rare but serious side effect of blood clots.
Australians are lining up to get the scarce Pfizer but have shunned the plentiful AstraZeneca
The move caused chaos as the government scrambled to secure more doses of Pfizer, the only other approved vaccine, and pushed back its goal of giving everyone a first dose from October to December.
Pfizer agreed to sell Australia another 20 million doses, doubling the existing total, but said they wouldn’t all arrive before the end of the year.
Morrison admitted the change had huge implications for the vaccination program, saying: “That was a big shock to the rollout and it’s events beyond the government’s control.”
The change also caused an increase in hesitation as a Essential Research found that 16 percent of Aussies said they would not be vaccinated, up from 12 percent in March, and the proportion willing to get vaccinated as soon as possible fell from 47 percent to 42 percent.
In June, the experts changed the advice again, recommending that only people over 60 get the AstraZeneca shot after 12 more cases of blood clots were recorded in a week, seven in their 50s.
Officials made their decision based on a risk-benefit analysis that took into account the fact that Australia had very low levels of Covid-19 due to its strict international border closure.
dr. Jamal Rifi, owner of Belmore Medical Center in Sydney’s west, told ABC: ‘People talk about hesitation or reluctance, it goes way beyond that. It’s a refusal by patients to get the AstraZeneca.’
On July 8, the government announced a deal with Pfizer to bring forward deliveries to obtain at least one million vaccines per week from July 19.