MELBOURNE – Australia, which is fast becoming one of the nations most vaccinated against COVID-19, will likely begin administering the vaccines for children under 12 in January, authorities said Sunday.
Health Minister Greg Hunt said medical regulators are still reviewing the health and safety data for vaccines to be given to children between the ages of five and 11 and are unlikely to decide this year.
“The expectation they have set is the first part of January, hopefully early January,” Hunt told Australian Broadcast Corp’s Insiders program. “But they are going as fast as possible.”
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention this month recommended the Pfizer Inc / BioNTech SE injection for wide use in the 5- to 11-year-old age group, after it was cleared by the Food Administration. and Medications.
Army Lt. Gen. John Frewen, commander of Australia’s COVID-19 task force, told The Age newspaper that Australia has secured the necessary supplies. “In fact, we have purchased enough supplies for doses and baby boosters,” Frewen said.
On Friday, Australia crossed the 90% single dose mark for those over 16, with 83% receiving two injections. The country has also vaccinated 57.7% of children between the ages of 12 and 15, according to data from the Ministry of Health.
Australia’s high vaccination rates were key to its decision to partially reopen international borders this month for the first time since the onset of the pandemic, despite ongoing outbreaks of the Delta variant in the most populous states, New Wales of the South and Victoria. On Sunday, 1,100 infections were reported in the two states, home to nearly 60% of the country’s population. Five more people died.
Yet despite the Delta outbreaks that led to months of lockdown in the two largest cities, Sydney and Melbourne, the national tally of just 191,000 infections and 1,596 deaths is far lower than many other developed nations.
Neighboring New Zealand, which is also learning to live with the coronavirus through high vaccination rates, reported 207 new cases and one death, bringing the total number of confirmed cases since the start of the pandemic to 8,331 infections and 34 deaths.