Children as young as five years old will become eligible to receive the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine in Australia beginning next month, Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced on Friday.
“In one month from today, around 2.27 million Aussie kids aged five to 11 years will have the opportunity to roll up their sleeves and get vaccinated against COVID-19,” Morrison said in a statement.
“This will bring great relief to so many mums and dads, who now have a choice on what’s best for their kids. They can have peace of mind knowing this has the tick from the best medical regulators in the world,” he added.
A release from the prime minister’s office noted that the decision came after recommendations from the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation were accepted by the Australian government.
Children between the ages of five and 11 years old will only receive one-third of the vaccine dose typically given to those aged 12 years and older.
Australia’s regulatory agency for therapeutics and its immunization advisory group will also be reviewing whether children as young as six years old can take the Moderna vaccine.
The Moderna vaccine has not yet been authorized for children as young as six years old in the United States, though the company said in late October that it was safe and effective in kids between the ages of six and 11 years old.
Morrison's announcement comes as more countries are seeking to ramp up vaccine distribution by making younger populations eligible to receive COVID-19 vaccine shots. Health officials underscore that it is critical for as many people to be vaccinated against the virus to curb further spread of more variants.
One variant countries are closely tracking is the omicron variant, which was first detected last month. Scientists are racing to see how contagious and severe omicron is and how effective the current vaccines are against it.
Pfizer delivered encouraging news on Wednesday, saying that the omicron variant is neutralized by three doses of their vaccine, according to preliminary studies.