Pfizer to apply for approval in 5-to-11 age range, AstraZeneca reaffirms commitment to current contract

Greg Hunt says Pfizer's imminent application for approval in the 5-to-11 age range is 'good news' for parents. Picture: Sitthixay Ditthavong
Greg Hunt says Pfizer's imminent application for approval in the 5-to-11 age range is 'good news' for parents. Picture: Sitthixay Ditthavong

Pfizer will be allowed to make the case for its vaccine to be administered to children as young as 5.

Drug manufacturer CSL has also reaffirmed its plans to produce 50 million AstraZeneca doses in Australia, with Health Minister Greg Hunt confirming excess doses will be sent to nearby countries.

The Therapeutic Goods Administration has made a provisional determination allowing Pfizer, currently available to Australians aged 12 and over, to submit its data on the 5 to 11 age group for approval.

Mr Hunt said the process would be expedited and he hoped the TGA would be able to assess Pfizer's final data in the coming weeks.

"It means that we have supplies, we have the distribution mechanisms at the moment," he said.

But even were the TGA to grant approval, there was no guarantee the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation would follow suit.

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"We take a double green-light approach, that's been the situation. They were cautious in assessing the 12 to 15-year-olds ... And so we'll continue to follow that medical advice," Mr Hunt said.

The Delta strain has disproportionately targeted the under-16 population who, despite being less likely to transmit the virus or suffer severe symptoms, were less vaccinated than older age ranges.

But Australian parents have proven eager to vaccinate their children where possible, with 55.5 per cent of 12 to 15-year olds having received a first dose.

Deputy chief medical officer Sonya Bennett said Thursday's development would provide them greater certainty as Australia emerged from lockdown.

"This is a welcome step and really serves to further protect children and their families, and support schools staying open as well," she said.

"Schooling and education is very important for children, and as we move into reopening Australia in the phases we want to see schools stay open."

It comes as drug manufacturer CSL reaffirmed its commitment to producing the AstraZeneca vaccine in Australia into 2022, despite reports it would halt production due to demand for Pfizer and Moderna. Australia has ordered over 53 million doses of the jab, 50 million of which were set to be manufactured onshore.

The federal government has consistently spruiked on-shore vaccine production as central to its response. But Mr Hunt did not reveal whether it had moved to extend the agreement beyond the current contract.

"They're not a contract manufacturer, they're one of the world's leading vaccination producers have in their own right," he said.

"They've taken a massive disruption ... They've diverted themselves enormously."

And as health experts warned global coverage was the best way to neuter the threat of COVID-19 mutating, Mr Hunt said excess doses would be sent to neighbouring countries.

"Fiji has very much built its vaccination program, with the support of Australian AstraZeneca has made a huge difference," he said.

"We'll continue to support [the region] both directly with our AstraZeneca ... and also through the COVAX facility."

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This story Pfizer takes next step on child vaccinations first appeared on The Canberra Times.

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