Vaccines now to be offered to children from 5 up

Children aged five to 11 are now to be offered a Covid-19 vaccination.

The announcement was made this morning by the Minister for Health, Stephen Donnelly, who said he has accepted new recommendations in relation to Ireland’s COVID-19 vaccination programme.

The recommendations were made by the National Immunisation Advisory Committee (NIAC) to the Chief Medical Officer (CMO), who has endorsed these recommendations.

NIAC have strongly recommended that children aged 5-11 years:

with an underlying condition

living with a younger child with complex medical needs

living with an immunocompromised adult

should receive the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine. These three categories will be prioritised for vaccination at the same time as others with underlying conditions.

NIAC have also recommended that vaccination should be offered to all children aged 5-11 years.

For most children COVID-19 is a mild illness which will resolve. However, a small minority of children will have more serious disease. In order to protect children from severe disease, as well as the potential long-term consequences of infection (e.g., long COVID) and in recognition of the negative psychosocial and developmental impacts of COVID-19 on children.

The Pfizer vaccine is already approved for use in adults and children aged 12 years and above. It has been recommended by NIAC for children aged 5-11 years at a dose of 10 µg (as compared with 30 µg in those aged over 12 years) to be given as a two-dose schedule, three weeks apart.

Minister Donnelly said: “Today’s news is another positive step forward in our country’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“As the country continues to experience a high incidence of disease, we have seen a significant increase in confirmed cases of COVID-19 in this age group. While we know that most children will experience a very mild form of this disease if they pick it up, for a small few, they may become severely ill. Extending the possibility of vaccination to this age group offers another layer of protection to our children, and to those around them.

“We are already beginning to see a significant reduction in incidence of COVID-19 infection in the over 75 age group, where people have been taking up the offer of a third dose of a COVID-19 vaccine in high numbers. This is really good news and shows the benefits of receiving a third/booster dose.

“Do not wait until after Christmas to receive your booster vaccine or come forward for your first dose, the benefits of receiving your booster dose far outweigh any potential risks that may arise in the meantime.

“It is vital that all of us prioritise our booster appointments as soon as we receive them or make the time to attend a walk-in vaccination clinic if that option is available.”