Hunt says Australia need not rush COVID vaccine approval for under-12s

Health Minister Greg Hunt says Australia need not rush COVID vaccine approval for under-12s. Picture: Elesa Kurtz
Health Minister Greg Hunt says Australia need not rush COVID vaccine approval for under-12s. Picture: Elesa Kurtz

Greg Hunt has defended making under-12s wait until after Christmas gatherings for their first doses of the COVID-19 vaccine, but says the nation's booster rollout for adults will be one of the earliest in the world.

The clinical trial that US regulators used to give emergency approval to Pfizer for 5- to 11-year-olds was very small, the Health Minister said.

Australia's medical regulator and vaccine advisory panel "do not want to cut corners on the study and data for children - but they want to go as quickly as possible, which is what we're doing," Mr Hunt told ABC's Insiders on Sunday.

Supply was not the issue, he said. The decision was in the hands of medical experts, but the expectation was "hopefully early January".

"If everybody is vaccinated, the best protection for kids is vaccinated parents, family members and siblings over the age of 12," he said.

Australia's COVID-19 Taskforce Commander, Lieutenant General John Frewen, also backed a January rollout start for under-12s.

No decision has been made on whether that age group would need to prove vaccination in order to board a plane or enter some venues, as adults are currently required, Mr Hunt confirmed. Those decisions will be made on health advice from the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee, he said.

The government will roll out its latest "Get a jab" vaccine take-up advertising campaign on Sunday featuring Frankie J Holden. Hesitancy continues to be the predominant issue with remaining pockets of unvaccinated populations, including Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians.

COVID vaccination rates for Indigenous Australians trail the national average, just 55 per cent fully vaccinated and not yet 70 per cent for first doses.

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Mr Hunt said it would be safe to open state borders despite the lower take-up in vulnerable communities because Australia's overall vaccination rates were so high.

"We've done that very carefully and that's led Australia to a position where we are one of the most highly vaccinated societies and one of the first after Israel to have a whole of nation booster program," he said.

The booster rollout officially began on Monday and has administered approximately 257,000 doses.

This week, Mr Hunt said talks to use Moderna's COVID-19 vaccine as a booster were "well advanced" and could be finalised within weeks.

This story Hunt claims booster rollout will be 'one of the earliest in the world' but under-12s must wait first appeared on The Canberra Times.