Pfizer given initial nod for children

The medicines regulator has approved the Pfizer vaccine for children aged between 12 and 15.
The medicines regulator has approved the Pfizer vaccine for children aged between 12 and 15.

Australian children as young as 12 could start to receive coronavirus vaccines this year after Pfizer was given the initial nod for those under 16.

Initial approval has been granted by the Therapeutic Goods Administration, but the national expert medical panel still has the final say.

This will likely be done next week, Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation co-chair Christopher Blyth says.

"We need to consider those recommendations (from the TGA), given the fact we still have limited Pfizer supplies as well," he told a Senate committee examining Australia's pandemic response on Friday.

ATAGI will be looking at prioritising access for children who are immunocompromised or with underlying health conditions.

The TGA's John Skerritt told the committee Pfizer was safe and effective for children between the ages of 12 and 15.

It was previously only approved for Australians aged 16 and over.

Health Minister Greg Hunt said children with impaired immune systems or underlying medical conditions would be added to the Pfizer rollout as soon as ATAGI gave the final nod.

He also flagged the expert group could make a decision about Pfizer access for all children in that age group by the end of August.

"In which case, we would then ensure there's rollout through the course of 2021 through a combination of schools and general access," Mr Hunt said.

He maintained under-40s could expect to be eligible for their first Pfizer jab from September or early October.

"That is the expectation at the moment. If there were to be a variation, we can bring it forward," the minister said.

When asked about access to other vaccines, Department of Health secretary Brendan Murphy said both Novavax and Moderna would be available this year.

Moderna had committed to provide about a million doses in September once it is approved.

Novavax also promised to deliver doses, expected to number in the millions, in the fourth quarter pending its approval.

"Because we don't have full registration yet and we don't have a clear production timeline, our current plan is not dependent on having Novavax for our primary vaccination course this year," Prof Murphy told the Senate committee.

In the United States, Pfizer was approved for children aged between 12 and 15 earlier this year.

The World Health Organisation has argued countries that immediately vaccinate healthy children do so at the expense of frontline workers and high-risk groups in other countries.

Australian Associated Press