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Moderna’s coronavirus vaccine could be approved for use as a booster within weeks and the medical regulator is now examining two vaccines for potential use in younger children.
The Therapeutic Goods Administration is assessing data from Moderna on the use of its vaccine for children aged six to 11, and a separate application on the vaccine’s use as a booster after granting the pharmaceutical company permission to submit those applications on Wednesday.
Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt says he expects Australia will have a childhood coronavirus vaccine program.Credit:Alex Ellinghausen
Health Minister Greg Hunt said the TGA’s provisional determination on Moderna meant the rapid assessment process could begin.
“Now the assessment itself occurs. And that will occur with a full and thorough but rapid assessment, to potentially provide a second vaccine if both Pfizer and Moderna are approved [for under 12s],” he said.
Currently, the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines are approved for people aged 12 and up. The TGA started working through an application from Pfizer for the use of its vaccine in children aged five to 11 late last month.
Mr Hunt said he expected there would be childhood COVID-19 vaccines in Australia, but the country’s top vaccine experts want to see real-world data on safety and efficacy before giving the shots the green light.
“They do not want to cut corners on children’s safety and I endorse that approach,” he said. “Having said that, we’re confident that this will be successful, that we’re committed to making sure that focus on safety is absolute.”
Professor Allen Cheng, co-chair of vaccine advisory group the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation, said it was waiting on more data from the United States on the Pfizer vaccine in children. That data is expected in the next four weeks.
“The timing isn’t clear at this stage but it would probably be at least December and possibly January before we might start administering vaccines to younger kids,” he said.
Mr Hunt acknowledged there were currently mixed views among medical professionals about whether younger children should be vaccinated.
“That’s why we have a medical regulator and we have an advisory board, so they will work as quickly as possible. They will work, though, to make sure that there are no corners cut in ensuring the safety and protection of our children,” he said.
If approved, Mr Hunt said he did not see why pharmacies could not administer vaccines to younger children.
“Pharmacies are already administrating vaccines for 12-plus for Moderna, and increasingly we have pharmacies administering Pfizer for 12-plus,” he said. “So they’re well-equipped. They’re doing a great job.”
Australia will pass the 90 per cent first-dose mark on Thursday and all eight states and territories have now passed the 80 per cent first-dose milestone.
“What we’re seeing is a country on track to having a population over 90 per cent double-dosed, one of the highest rates in the world,” Mr Hunt said.
So far more than 37 million vaccines have been administered across the country, and already more than 200,000 boosters or third doses have been delivered to Australians just days after the official launch of the booster program.
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