Australia’s drug regulator on Friday approved the use of COVID-19 vaccine booster shots for 16- and 17-year-olds as authorities urge people to get their third doses soon to mitigate the threat from the Omicron coronavirus variant.
The Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) said it had approved Pfizer’s vaccine for use as a booster in youths aged 16-17, joining the United States, Israel and Britain.
Australia is among the most heavily vaccinated countries against COVID-19 with more than 93% of its adult population double-dosed and some 35% of people above 18 having received a booster dose, according to official data. It began administering vaccines to children aged 5-11 from early this month.
TGA said the country’s vaccination advisory group will soon give more information on when the 16-17 age group will be eligible to receive their booster doses.
Omicron has spiralled Australia’s total infections to around 2.4 million, with about 2 million detected in the last four weeks, though its less lethal impact and a booster rollout gathering pace has resulted in a lower death rate.
Frequently Asked Questions
A vaccine works by mimicking a natural infection. A vaccine not only induces immune response to protect people from any future COVID-19 infection, but also helps quickly build herd immunity to put an end to the pandemic. Herd immunity occurs when a sufficient percentage of a population becomes immune to a disease, making the spread of disease from person to person unlikely. The good news is that SARS-CoV-2 virus has been fairly stable, which increases the viability of a vaccine.
There are broadly four types of vaccine — one, a vaccine based on the whole virus (this could be either inactivated, or an attenuated [weakened] virus vaccine); two, a non-replicating viral vector vaccine that uses a benign virus as vector that carries the antigen of SARS-CoV; three, nucleic-acid vaccines that have genetic material like DNA and RNA of antigens like spike protein given to a person, helping human cells decode genetic material and produce the vaccine; and four, protein subunit vaccine wherein the recombinant proteins of SARS-COV-2 along with an adjuvant (booster) is given as a vaccine.
Vaccine development is a long, complex process. Unlike drugs that are given to people with a diseased, vaccines are given to healthy people and also vulnerable sections such as children, pregnant women and the elderly. So rigorous tests are compulsory. History says that the fastest time it took to develop a vaccine is five years, but it usually takes double or sometimes triple that time.
A total of 3,402 deaths have been registered in the country since the pandemic began, far lower than numbers seen in many comparable countries.Australia reported fewer COVID-19 deaths on Thursday, a day after recording a pandemic high of 87 deaths, while hospital cases remained steady, raising hopes the country’s worst outbreak may have peaked.