The statement said that under-fives who were not in the specific risk categories listed “have a very low likelihood of severe illness from COVID” but that the advice for this group was subject to change based on factors including vaccine supply and availability, as well as epidemiology.
Butler said Pfizer’s paediatric vaccine for under-fives “potentially provides an alternative or additional supply option for Australia” but did not say how soon it would be available.
The TGA announced on Wednesday that it had started evaluating Pfizer’s vaccine for under-fives.
The minister revealed that eight children aged six months to two years had died from COVID in Australia in the six months to June 17 out of 350,000 positive cases, although there would have been “many more” infections among those who had not been tested.
In NSW, there were 69 children aged zero to nine years admitted to hospital with or shortly after having COVID in the week to July 23, including one admitted to ICU. (edited)
Victoria does not routinely publish an age breakdown of COVID hospitalisations. The Age has requested the data but the health department did not respond before deadline.
The United States Food and Drug Administration approved both Pfizer and Moderna’s COVID vaccine for children aged six months to five years in June.
ATAGI has recommended under-fives eligible for the Moderna paediatric vaccine be given two primary doses, or three for those who are severely immunocompromised, with an eight-week interval between doses.
The paediatric formulation of Moderna’s Spikevax vaccine contains half the dose used in its vaccine for children aged six to 11 years and a quarter of that used for people aged 12 years and over.
Butler said the government had secured 250,000 doses of the Moderna paediatric vaccine for under-five-year-olds, which were “in the air right now and are expected to land in Australia later tonight” with a further 250,000 doses contracted to be delivered next month.
He said a maximum of 175,000 doses were needed to vaccinate all eligible children.
The vaccine doses will need to be batch-tested by the TGA before being administered through paediatric hospitals and GP clinics.
Butler said parents of children with health conditions should “have a conversation with their treating health practitioners” about the Moderna paediatric vaccine, noting the sluggish uptake of COVID vaccines among older children.
Official data shows that only 41 per cent of five-to-11-year-olds have received two doses of a COVID-19 vaccine and 52 per cent have had one dose, almost six months after ATAGI recommended it be given to all children in this age group.
The government would roll out an information campaign about paediatric vaccines in the coming weeks, the minister said.
The minister said that, given the cohort being recommended for the under-five vaccine were “particularly vulnerable to severe illness”, the government was confident it would achieve “a reasonable uptake”, noting Australia’s high uptake of vaccines for under-fives on the National Immunisation Schedule.
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