Children as young as 12 will soon be offered the Pfizer coronavirus vaccine after the jab was approved for use in kids.
Before today only those aged 16 or over could get the jab in Australia.
The US, Canada, Germany, Japan, France, Italy and other countries have been giving Pfizer to under 12s since May.
A health worker administers a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine to a minor at a vaccination centre in Santiago, Chile on June 23
Trials for children under 12 are ongoing to determine safety and dosage, with results due in a few months and a decision in the US expected in early 2022.
The Therapeutic Goods Administration, which oversees Australia’s medicines and vaccinations, approved the jab for teenagers on Thursday.
The Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (Atagi) must now give its approval before the vaccine can be rollout out under 16s.
Health Minister Greg Hunt confirmed the approval in an interview on Sunrise on Friday morning.
‘If Atagi gives the second green light, immunocompromised and kids with underlying medical conditions [will be] immediately added to the phase 1B [of the rollout and] able to access Pfizer,’ he said.
‘The US is doing this for 12 to 15-year-olds and they are providing the world with very, very important safety data.’
For children with under-lying health conditions which can make coronavirus more serious, approval to get the vaccine is set to be fast-tracked.
A health worker wears a protective face mask and gloves as she gives a Pfizer/BioNTech covid-19 jab to a teenager in Warsaw, Poland on June 26
Health Minister Greg Hunt said the the new vaccination program would aim to ‘protect children’ and was an ‘important and welcome additional step’.
‘Significantly we planned for this outcome and acquired the vaccines in the event of eligibility,’ he said.
The official approval through the Atagi should take around four weeks, amid a spate of outbreaks within schools in Victoria.
Scientists say the Delta strain of Covid-19 spreads among children, unlike the original Wuhan strain.
There have been a number of recent Covid cases in Australian schools, including four infected pupils at South Coogee Primary School (pictured)
According to government data released on June 28, about two in 100,000 people will get a blood clot from the AstraZeneca jab and only three per cent of those affected will die, a mortality rate of 0.6 in a million. Meanwhile, the Covid-19 mortality rate in Australia is 3.9 per cent, or 39,000 in a million
Several New South Wales schools have also been affected during Sydney’s recent outbreak, including South Coogee Public School in the city’s east where at least four children tested positive.
The outbreak forced 555 primary school students into two weeks of isolation after they were deemed close contacts.
In the UK, Pfizer has not yet been approved for anyone under the age of 16.
However those most at risk as young as 12, including children with severe disabilities, immunosuppression disorders and Down’s syndrome can get the jab.
The huge change to Australia’s vaccine rollout comes after Scott Morrison apologised for the program not meeting its targets but insists some of the issues were out of his control.
The prime minister had repeatedly refused to say sorry for the bungled immunisation program, which is lagging behind most of the developed world.
‘I’m sorry that we haven’t been able to achieve the marks that we had hoped for at the beginning of this year – of course I am,’ he told reporters in Canberra on Thursday.
Speaking on Thursday, Scott Morrison (pictured) apologised for the program not meeting its targets but insisted some of the issues were out of his control
‘But what’s more important is that we’re totally focused on ensuring that we’ve been turning this around.’
A record 184,000 doses were administered in the past 24 hours, but just 15 per cent of the population aged over 16 is fully vaccinated.
The rollout started almost five months ago but the government has been forced to dump multiple targets.
Shadow treasurer Jim Chalmers accused the prime minister of shifting the blame and sending mixed messages.
‘This vaccine rollout has been a debacle from the beginning because of Scott Morrison’s failures to send a clear message, but most of all to secure enough vaccines,’ he said.
Australia has ample supplies of AstraZeneca, which is produced in Melbourne, but there is not yet enough imported Pfizer arriving to use in people under 40.
More pharmacies will be brought into the rollout sooner in a bid to ramp up immunisation rates in coming weeks.
Chemists’ involvement will more than triple to 470 by the end of the month before thousands join in mid-August.
Almost 40,000 people under 40 have received the AstraZeneca jab since the prime minister encouraged people to talk with a doctor about taking it.
Mr Morrison continues to challenge the nation’s expert immunisation panel to reconsider advice which recommends AstraZeneca only for over-60s.
There have been six deaths in Australia of an extremely rare blood clotting condition connected to the AstraZeneca vaccine from more than 6.1 million doses.
‘Significantly we planned for this outcome and acquired the vaccines in the event of eligibility,’ Health Minister Greg Hunt (pictured) said
A 48-year-old Victorian woman and a man from Tasmania, 44, were confirmed as the two latest thrombocytopenia syndrome deaths on Thursday.
Mr Morrison said the cases were terribly tragic but stressed more people’s lives were at risk if vaccination rates did not rise.
There were 124 new local cases of coronavirus recorded in NSW on Thursday, the highest since the outbreak began.
Health authorities are bracing for numbers to go even higher with at least 70 people in Thursday’s numbers spending some time in the community while infectious.
NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian said none of the state’s 28 coronavirus patients in intensive care had received both doses of a vaccine.
Victoria also recorded its highest daily total of the current outbreak with 26 new local cases, but only two were in the community while infectious.
The state’s COVID commander Jeroen Weimar said infected people who were fully vaccinated were only feeling very limited impacts of the virus.
Queensland will shut its border to all of NSW from 1am on Friday, joining Victoria in putting statewide travel restrictions in place.
WA will close its border with South Australia where a cluster in Adelaide has grown to 14 cases.
Melbourne is in lockdown until at least July 27. Pictured: Residents at Yarra River on Thursday