(Australian Associated Press)
A coronavirus vaccine for children as young as five is a step closer and could be available early in the new year, as cases of the new Omicron variant continue to rise.
The Therapeutic Goods Administration has approved a Pfizer vaccine for five to 11 year olds, which Health Minister Greg Hunt expects will start rolling out from January 10.
He said vaccine experts at the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation will give their nod of approval soon after the group’s final checks.
“It is about keeping our kids safe, keeping our families safe, keeping all Australians safe,” Mr Hunt told reporters in Melbourne on Sunday.
He said many 12 to 15 year olds have stepped forward for a vaccination in just 11 weeks since their program began.
He added 76.7 per cent in this age group have had one dose, while 67.8 per cent are fully dosed with two jabs.
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.”
Mr Hunt said a children’s Moderna vaccine is also being considered by the TGA.
The decision comes against the backdrop of worries over the new coronavirus Omicron variant.
Mr Hunt said he had been briefed by Chief Medical Officer Paul Kelly and his deputy Michael Kidd earlier on Sunday.
“We’re reviewing, daily and weekly, the travel restrictions,” Mr Hunt said.
“There are no plans to change the current proposals,”
Prof Skerritt said more than 40 countries have now reported Omicron infections.
“Early indications are that it provides a milder course of disease, although usually there’s about a two week lag to work out whether there are going to be cases of hospitalisation and severe disease,” he said.
“So that’s why the lead-up period to Christmas and exercising caution is so important.”
NSW recorded two more Omicron infections, bringing the state’s total to 15, and worryingly a number of likely cases are expected to be confirmed later on Sunday.
In total, NSW recorded another 286 new cases of coronavirus, while a man in his 60s died from the disease.
The ACT also confirmed a second case of the Omicron variant, a close contact of the previous reported individual.
ACT Health reported six new COVID-19 cases on Sunday.
Parliament House will remain closed to the public until further notice after a staff member of Greens leader Adam Bandt tested positive to COVID-19 on returning to Victoria from Canberra last week.
Mr Bandt has since returned a negative test, as have all his staff.
Victoria recorded another 980 virus cases on Sunday and a further seven virus -related deaths.
Meanwhile, Queensland produced a clean sheet for new COVID-19 cases and Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk has not ruled out re-opening the border earlier than previous announced.
The state will scrap quarantine for vaccinated domestic arrivals when 80 per cent of eligible people are fully jabbed, initially expected to be December 17.
Ms Palaszczuk said so far 87.2 per cent of eligible Queenslanders had received one jab and 78.1 per cent were fully vaccinated.