Associate Professor Paul Griffin from Mater Health Services and the University of Queensland and Dr Roger Lord from the Australian Catholic University both told the AusSMC the new approval is “welcome news”.
Children will receive two jabs of Spikevax at least 28 days apart, similarly to other age groups, although a lower dose will be used.
The decision follows the earlier approval of Pfizer’s mRNA jab for use in this age group, and the ongoing use of the Moderna vaccine in children over 12 and in adults.
Griffin said the approval of Spikevax comes at a time when Australia has room for improvement in its child vaccination rates.
“While it has been pleasing to see many children in the five-to-11-year age range already come out and receive their vaccine (my three children included), the uptake in this age range in our country is still less than 50%,” Griffin says.
“Adding another safe and effective vaccine option should hopefully help further increase uptake in this age group.”
Parents can be confident that the vaccine is safe for their kids, Griffin adds: “The data supporting its use is clear with a large study of around 4,000 children in this age group conducted in the USA and Canada demonstrating high rates of both efficacy and safety.”
As children around the country return to school, making sure they are vaccinated against COVID-19 has become more important than ever, say experts.
“Children regularly mix in schools and, if unprotected, will serve as a reservoir of ongoing infection and a potential source of new variants over time,” says Lord.
It was a sentiment echoed by Griffin: “With school (very appropriately) going back and the transmission we have seen in this age group in recent times, the importance of comprehensive (yet reasonable) mitigation strategies including vaccination has been highlighted.”
Lord identified four factors that are critical to preventing hospitalisation and severe illness from COVID-19: “The evolution of the virus, vaccination rates, preventative measures (eg. social distancing, improved ventilation) and improvements in COVID-19 treatments.”
“Vaccination of school-age children will help to decrease infection rates in a substantial section of the population,” he says.
This article originally appeared in Science Deadline, a weekly newsletter from the AusSMC.
Dr Joe Milton is an evolutionary biologist Senior Media Officer at the Australian Science Media Centre.
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