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Pfizer green light for age 12 to 15 while under 40s jab still months away

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Australia’s medicine regulator has approved the Pfizer vaccine being made available for children aged 12 to 15, but the Federal Government says September or October is still expected to be the earliest anyone under 40 can get the jab.

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Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt this morning confirmed the Therapeutic Goods Administration ruling for those aged 12-15 on Friday.

The Pfizer vaccine had previously only been approved for Australians 16 and over.

The next step is for the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation to provide recommendations on which groups of children should be prioritised.

The expert vaccine panel will also provide advice on how and when the jabs should be administered.

They have been meeting with global experts in recent days to inform their deliberations.

If ATAGI gives the green light, children with impaired immune systems or underlying medical conditions will be immediately added to the vaccine rollout and able to access Pfizer.

A final decision is expected by the end of next week.

Widespread vaccination of Australian children is not expected until all adults have had their shots.

Hunt confirmed September to early October was the expected timeline for under-40s to receive their first Pfizer jab.

“It’s a window, not a specific date at this stage,” he said.

“If there were to be a change, it would be to bring it forward, not push back.”

Once the rollout is complete among Australian adults, vaccines are likely to be administered to children at schools as well as GP clinics, pharmacists and mass vaccination centres.

Earlier this week, British authorities approved vaccines for use among children with severe disabilities or health conditions.

The UK regulator decided against giving vaccinations to under-18s without underlying health conditions.

In the United States, the Pfizer vaccine was approved for 12 to 15-year-olds earlier in the year.

President Joe Biden on Thursday expressed optimism children under 12 will be approved for vaccination in coming months.

AstraZeneca remains the preferred vaccine for people aged 60 and over because of a low risk of rare blood clots.

Meanwhile, national cabinet is expected to meet on Friday to endorse the terms of reference for an updated report into the quarantining of returned overseas travellers.

Federal, state and territory leaders are expected to canvass letting people quarantine at home instead of at hotels, which have been the source of multiple coronavirus leaks and outbreaks.

A Senate committee is also expected on Friday to hear from senior health and medical officials about Australia’s pandemic response.

Hunt defended significant delays to the overdue vaccine rollout for people with disabilities after cases were confirmed at a residential home in Sydney.

That group was initial among the highest priority for vaccines meant to have been fully rolled out by Easter.

The minister said more than 24,000 doses had been delivered to disability home residents, which had received more than 3700 vaccine visits.

More pharmacies are being brought into the rollout. About 4000 chemists across the country have been approved to take part in the program.

-with AAP

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