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  • Delay for under-5s COVID vaccine approval

    Author: AAP

Work on potentially approving COVID-19 vaccines for children under five will not get under way until after Easter, according to health officials.

The head of the Therapeutic Goods Administration said it would be some time before vaccination consideration would be made for younger children.

John Skerritt said approval processes for children under five had been "put on ice" by US regulators, and Australia would follow suit.

"(US regulators) were going to have a committee meeting last week to look at it, but it is clear that, especially for certain ages in that band, there's the need for either a third dose or a higher dose than that used by Pfizer," he told reporters in Canberra.

"Pfizer are now conducting some further trials, so we're not expecting (US regulators) will complete their review for a couple of months now."

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Professor Skerritt said the TGA was not expecting to receive submissions from Pfizer until well after Easter.

It comes as the Moderna vaccine was given final approval to be used for children six to 11 years old. That rollout will begin on Thursday.

A dose will be half of that given to adults, but is the same as the amount in a regular booster shot.

Children will be able to get two doses of the vaccine spaced eight weeks apart. It can be administered as little as three weeks apart in certain circumstances, such as if a child is immunocompromised.

Health Minister Greg Hunt said the approval would help to boost Australia's child vaccination rate, which now stands at nearly 50 per cent.

"We have Moderna in over 4000 points of presence around the country," Mr Hunt told reporters in Canberra.

"That will make it very easy for parents."

Mr Hunt said the number of parents who intended to have their children vaccinated against COVID-19 had risen to 76 per cent.

It comes as the health minister asked infectious diseases expert Professor Julie Leask to lead a roundtable on what can be done to boost vaccine rates among children.

The task force, which will meet next week with the Commonwealth, state and territories, will also look at whether schools could be used in vaccination drives for children.

Mr Hunt said while the number of children who have been vaccinated is already high, it could go even further.

"Through the program I have not put a ceiling or floor on the numbers (for child vaccination), and that's hopefully helped us to continue to drive up and up," he said.

"With children's vaccination programs, we're encouraging all states and territories to undertake this."

Since the Novavax vaccine was approved last month, more than 12,000 doses have been administered.

Professor Skerritt said there had been a bigger uptake than expected for Novavax, particularly in Western Australia.

"We are seeing that there are people who are coming forward for Novavax who had chosen, for whatever reason, not to be vaccinated earlier and that's encouraging," he said.

Booster rates have risen to 62.1 per cent of the eligible population.

Wednesday saw 60 COVID-19 deaths reported across the country, including 37 in Queensland, 17 in Victoria and six in NSW.

Nationally, there have been more than 27,000 COVID-19 cases registered in the most recent reporting period.

They include 8931 in NSW, 6926 in Victoria, 6301 in Queensland, 1958 in South Australia, 946 in the ACT, 842 in Tasmania, 864 in the NT and 645 in Western Australia.

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