Aussies aim to inoculate children under 12 against COVID-19

A family leaves to board a plane at Sydney's International Airport on Nov 1, 2021, as Australia's international border reopens almost 600 days after a pandemic closure began. (SAEED KHAN
/ AFP)

TOKYO / AMMAN / MELBOURNE / PHNOM PENH – Australia, quickly becoming one of most-vaccinated nations against COVID-19, will likely start administering the shots for children under the age of 12 in January, officials said on Sunday.

Health Minister Greg Hunt said medical regulators are still reviewing the health and safety data for the vaccinations to be administered for children between the ages of five and 11 and are unlikely to decide this year.

Health Minister Greg Hunt said medical regulators are still reviewing the health and safety data for the vaccinations to be administered for children between the ages of five and 11 and are unlikely to decide this year

"The expectation that they have set is the first part of January, hopefully early January," Hunt told the Australian Broadcast Corp's Insiders programme. "But they're going as quickly as possible."

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention this month recommended the Pfizer Inc /BioNTech SE shot for broad use in the 5-11 age group, after it was authorized by the Food and Drug Administration.

Army Lieutenant-General John Frewen, Australia's COVID-19 Taskforce commander told The Age newspaper that Australia has secured the necessary supplies. "We have actually purchased sufficient supply for doses and boosters down to infants," Frewen said.

On Friday, Australia crossed the 90 percent single-dose mark for those aged 16 and over, with 83 percent having two shots. The country has also vaccinated 57.7 percent of children between the ages of 12 and 15, according to health ministry data.

Australia's high vaccination rates were key to its decision to partially reopen international borders this month for the first time since the start of the pandemic, despite ongoing Delta variant outbreaks in the most populous states, New South Wales and Victoria.

On Sunday, there were 1,100 infections reported in the two states, home to nearly 60 percent of the country's population. Five more people died.

However, despite the Delta outbreaks that led to months of lockdown in the two largest cities, Sydney and Melbourne, the national tally of just 191,000 infections and 1,596 deaths is far lower than those of many other developed nations.

Neighbouring New Zealand, which is also learning to live with the coronavirus through high vaccination rates, reported 207 new cases and one death, bringing the total number of confirmed cases since the start of the pandemic to 8,331 infections and 34 deaths.


Cambodia will stop requiring quarantine for travelers who have been vaccinated for COVID-19 starting on Monday, Prime Minister Hun Sen said on Sunday.

The prime minister made the announcement in a voice message on social media after the Southeast Asian country has required lengthy quarantine for more than 18 months.

"After seeing that people have two doses and a negative COVID-19 test, they will be allowed to travel all over the Kingdom of Cambodia," he said.

Hun Sen said travelers will have to show their negative test 72 hours prior to travel and have two vaccine doses. Those who are unvaccinated will be quarantined for 14 days.

Hun Sen said vaccinated foreigners and Cambodians who are in quarantine will be allowed to leave from tomorrow.

"This is a quick way to re-open the country and facilitate travel for our people. I know some of our citizens want to go abroad but are worried about coming back with quarantine required," he said.

Cambodia has vaccinated nearly 90 percent of its more than 16 million people, one of Asia's highest inoculation rates.


Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida outlined on Friday an urgent plan to increase hospital beds and medical resources in preparation for a possible resurgence of COVID-19 infections this winter.

After a deadly fifth wave of infections almost overwhelmed the medical system during the summer, infections and deaths have fallen dramatically as vaccinations have increased to cover more than 70 percent of the population.

After a deadly fifth wave of infections almost overwhelmed the medical system during the summer, infections and deaths have fallen dramatically as vaccinations have increased to cover more than 70 percent of the population

Emergency measures covering most of the country were lifted last month, but health experts warn that cases will likely rebound, as they did in Japan last winter. Ahead of that, the government plans to boost hospital bed capacity by about 30 percent, bolster in-home care, and collect data to predict which hospitals will come under pressure.

"In parallel with strengthening the medical system, from December we will use IT systems to make public the number of hospital beds and conditions at each hospital," Kishida told reporters.

ALSO READ: Japan starts clinical trial for China developed virus vaccine

Kishida said earlier this week that the "trump card" in the government's pandemic fight was the procurement of oral treatments that could prevent the need for hospitalization.

Japan will pay about $1.2 billion for 1.6 million courses of the COVID-19 antiviral pill molnupiravir developed by Merck & Co Inc and Ridgeback Biotherapeutics, according to terms announced on Wednesday.

That's about half the supply that has been secured by the United States and compares with a total of 1.7 million coronavirus cases seen in Japan since the start of the pandemic.

Meanwhile, vaccine booster shots are due to start from next month, and the government is considering expanding inoculations to children as young as five.

Japan has weathered the pandemic better than many countries, with just over 18,000 deaths so far and without the imposition of stringent lockdowns.

But the government faced heavy criticism over a spate of deaths at home among patients due to hospitals' inability to handle the rash of cases during the summer. Former Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga resigned in September over his handling of the crisis.

To stave off the bed shortage, the health ministry has adopted a system that uses past and present infection data to predict when and where medical resources will come under strain.

"A sixth wave is a question of when rather than if," said Yuki Furuse, a Kyoto University professor who developed the predictive tool.

"Because the current situation in Japan is calm, it seems okay to lift some restrictions now. However, I am concerned about whether people can go back to a 'voluntary self-restraint state' again when needed," he added.


Jordan said Saturday that it would start providing COVID-19 booster vaccine dose to adults aged 18 and above, who got the second jab six months ago, as of Nov 14.

The announcement was made by Health Ministry Secretary General for Epidemiology Adel Belbeisi, the state-run Petra news agency reported.

In late September, the ministry authorized the booster shot for people 60 years old and above and others, including those with chronic illnesses, and health workers.

The official stressed the importance of the third dose, noting that immunity weakens six months after receiving the previous shot.

The health official said the second dose raises immunity for all age groups, noting that the ministry sees that the third dose should be of the same vaccine type as the first and second shots.

However, if the first and second jabs caused any complications, the booster shot can be changed, he added.

The official called on the public to report to designated centers across the country for vaccination, adding that there is no need to register on a particular platform launched earlier by the ministry to receive the third jab.

Last week, the National Anti-Pandemic Committee recommended the third dose be given to people aged 18 and above after six months from the second shot.

The Philippines

The Philippines is keeping its loose coronavirus restrictions in the Manila capital region until Nov 30 as daily cases decline and vaccination picks up.

The capital, which accounts for a third of economic output, will remain under Alert Level 2, the second-lowest under a five-tiered system, presidential spokesman Harry Roque said in a statement on Saturday. Provinces near Metro Manila will also be under the same level.

Relaxed restrictions on public movement have been in placed since Nov 5, and minors have been allowed in indoor establishments. Under Alert Level 2, indoor restaurants, gyms and cinemas can operate at half capacity, while outdoor establishments can open at 70 percent capacity.

READ MORE: Philippines extends virus curbs as cases hit new record high

The Philippines on Saturday reported 1,997 new COVID-19 cases and 238 deaths. It has 29,382 active cases, of which about 14 percent are severe and critical.


Thailand’s Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-Ocha said he is satisfied with almost 40,000 foreign tourists entering Thailand between Nov 1-12 after the nation’s reopening. 

Bangkok will allow internet cafes and game centers to reopen from Nov. 16 as daily new infections have fallen below 10,000 daily cases since late October, compared with the peak of 20,000 daily cases in August.