Booster vaccines approved for Australian 16-17 year olds amid battle against COVID-19 outbreaks

CANBERRA, Jan. 28 (Xinhua) -- Australia's medical regulator has approved coronavirus booster vaccines for teenagers aged 16-17 years old.

A nurse handles a COVID-19 AstraZeneca vaccine vial at a vaccine clinic at Sydney Road Family Medical Practice in Sydney, Australia, March 23, 2021. (Photo: CFP)

The Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) on Friday announced it has approved the Pfizer COVID-19 booster dose for young people aged 16-17 years old in Australia.

It is the first booster shot approved for people aged under 18 in Australia but requires approval yet from the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunization (ATAGI) before the rollout can begin.

"A booster dose will make sure the protection from the first two doses is even stronger and longer-lasting, helping prevent the virus from spreading and new variants from emerging," Health Minister Greg Hunt said in a media release on Friday.

Hunt said two-thirds of eligible Australians have received their boosters ahead of more people becoming eligible on Monday when the recommended interval between second and third doses is cut from four to three months.

"Yesterday, for example, 232,000 people came forward for their boosters and we're now 7.3 million boosters or 66.6 percent, precisely two-thirds of the eligible population in this point in time," he also said in a press conference on Friday.

Australia on Friday reported more than 40,000 new coronavirus cases and 98 deaths -- 39 in Victoria, 35 in New South Wales, 18 in Queensland, five in South Australia and one in the Australian Capital Territory (ACT).

It marks the deadliest day of the coronavirus pandemic in Australia and takes the country's death toll at 3,500.

According to Department of Health data, there were 5,090 Australians hospitalized with COVID-19 on Thursday, including 382 in intensive care units, with 139 of them being on ventilators.