COVID vaccines at schools likely next year

Doctors have backed vaccinating children aged between five and 11 against coronavirus in schools as early as next year. 

© Lukas Coch/AAP PHOTOS AMA president Omar Khorshid has backed vaccinating children between five and 11 against coronavirus.

Australian Medical Association president Omar Khorshid told a Senate inquiry on Tuesday a rollout for younger children would depend on clinical trials and regulatory approval.

“I suspect that a school-based vaccine program will take place next year because it will take that long for various approvals to come through and we need to have vaccine supply,” he said.

Pfizer has signalled it will seek regulatory approval in the US, Europe and elsewhere for its shot to be used on children aged five to 11 after promising clinical trial results.

The pharmaceutical giant says the vaccine produced a strong immune response, matching previous observations in 16- to 29-year-olds.

Dr Khorshid said Australia’s expert immunisation panel would have to approve vaccines for younger children.

“The Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation would also need to decide if it is recommended for that age group,” he said.

“That’s based on the science and data.”

Children aged between 12 and 15-years old are eligible to get Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, but a jab has yet to be approved for younger children.

Dr Khorshid said information from pharmaceutical companies had indicated clinical trials of coronavirus vaccines for children between five and 11 had been going well.

However, information is still to be determined about dosage levels for younger people.

Lieutenant General John Frewen, who is overseeing the vaccine rollout, previously canvassed the idea of school-based coronavirus vaccine programs.

Latest figures show more than 14 per cent of children aged between 12 and 15 have received a first dose of a COVID vaccine.

Dr Khorshid said Australia’s vaccine rollout was heading into more positive territory, as states and territories ramped up the number of doses administered.

“We do appear to be on track for the entire eligible population to be vaccinated by the end of the year, or a little earlier,” he said.

“Given where we were a few months ago, it’s a testament to the enormous effort in the community.

“This is our pathway out of restrictions to join the rest of the world.”

More than 72 per cent of eligible residents over 16 have received their first dose while 47 per cent are fully vaccinated.

Coronavirus cases continue to rise in NSW, where there were 1022 new infections and 10 deaths on Tuesday.

Victoria recorded an outbreak-high 603 cases and one death on the first day of a two-week construction shutdown which followed violent protests.

The ACT detected 16 new infections.

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