The National Immunisation Advisory Committee (NIAC) has recommended that vaccination should be offered to all children aged five to eleven years.
NIAC has made the recommendation in order to protect children from severe disease, as well as the potential long-term consequences of infection and in recognition of the negative psychosocial and developmental impacts of Covid-19 on children.
For most children, however, Covid-19 is a mild illness that will resolve but a small minority of children will have a more serious disease.
The Minister for Health has accepted the new recommendations that children aged five to eleven with an underlying condition, living with a younger child with complex medical needs or living with an immunocompromised adult should receive Comirnaty©, the Covid-19 vaccine developed by Pfizer/ BioNTech.
These three categories will now be prioritised for vaccination at the same time as others with underlying conditions.
The Comirnaty© vaccine is already approved for use in adults and children aged 12 years and above.
Minister Donnelly said that the news is “another positive step forward” in the country’s response to the 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,” he said.
The Department of Health and the HSE will now work to operationalise NIAC’s recommendation.