The prime minister says a cautious approach will be taken to approving the COVID-19 vaccine for young children, as the national rollout for booster shots formally begins.
The Therapeutic Goods Administration is reviewing data from manufacturer Pfizer as to whether to approve the COVID vaccine for five to 11-year-olds.
US regulators signed off on the vaccine for the younger age group last week, paving the way for millions of American children to be vaccinated.
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Speaking to reporters in Newcastle, Scott Morrison said Australian regulators needed to take their time before approving the child vaccines.
“We need to be very careful and cautious, and we won’t take further steps unless there is clear medical advice that we should proceed,” Mr Morrison said.
“Any parent would want the government to be as careful as possible, but particularly for children aged five to 11.”
Medical experts have warned children would be at an increased risk of contracting COVID as more of the population aged 12 and over become fully vaccinated.
The TGA and the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation are yet to form an opinion on whether the vaccines for the younger age group should be approved.
Mr Morrison said vaccines for five to 11 year olds would be rolled out immediately once approval was granted.
It comes as COVID booster shots were formally rolled out to GPs and pharmacies across the country from Monday.
Those who have been fully immunised for more than six months will be able to receive the top-up Pfizer dose, regardless of which brand they were vaccinated with originally.
The third dose has already been made available for the immunocompromised as well as those in disability and aged care.
Health Minister Greg Hunt said the booster program was off to a flying start.
“We are already at 173,000 people who have had their boosters,” Mr Hunt told the Seven Network on Monday.
“GPs, state clinics, commonwealth clinics, Indigenous medical centres, aged care and disability have been vaccinating people with boosters, so it’s a great start.”
However, medical researchers are still examining whether a yearly COVID booster would be needed, like the flu shot, or if three doses would provide enough protection.
Mr Morrison said the booster shots would provide important protection as states and territories eased COVID restrictions.
NSW recorded 187 new COVID-19 cases of in the latest reporting period, with seven deaths.
There were 1126 new infections in Victoria and five deaths, while the ACT had 13 cases.
Queensland registered no cases on Monday.
© AAP 2021