AS health officials in Ireland brace for large Covid-19 case numbers over the coming days, the vaccination programme is stepping up a gear, with an online booking portal opening today for children who are at high risk.
Children aged between five and 11 years who have a health condition that puts them at risk of severe illness from Covid, or who live with someone who is at higher risk, will be offered their first dose in vaccination centres from later this week. Parents can register their children for vaccination from today.
All other five- to 11-year-olds will be invited to register during January.
“We know from listening to parents that they have questions and concerns about the Covid-19 vaccine — particularly parents whose child is not at higher risk,” said Dr Lucy Jessop, director of public health at the National Immunisation Office.
“I would encourage parents to take time to read more about the vaccines. Parents should get their information from a trusted source when making the decision to vaccinate their child.”
Cork GP Dr Mike Thompson believes the initial uptake may be slow.
“I think there might be a bit more reluctance and there are also a lot of people who have been infected recently that will need to wait 12 weeks before getting their vaccine now,” he said.
“People need to make an informed decision and parents will be having a conversation with their GPs and nurses.”
In line with NIAC guidance, children will be offered a Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine with a smaller dose than the adult vaccine (0.2ml instead of 0.3ml). The two doses will be spread about three weeks apart.
Dr Thompson said it is important that the vaccination programme should continue to stay focused on the adult population.
“We’re trying not to dilute the other message which is to keep safe and get the adults done,” he said. “There’s a strange anomaly at the moment where 12 to 15-year-olds aren’t being boosted and that needs to be addressed as well.
“At the rate that Omicron is spreading, we’d certainly be keen to keep vaccinating the over-11s. We’re concentrating on that cohort in general practice right now but the one thing we’ve learned in Covid is that things change.”
According to the HSE, the protection offered by the Pfizer vaccine to children has been shown to be similar to the protection provided for adults.
The HSE has provided dedicated information for parents on its website along with an informative comic for children explaining the process.
To register your child online, you will need their PPS number, your Eircode, a mobile phone number, and an email address. For children who don’t have a PPS number, parents can register by phone on 1800 700 700.
It comes as testing centres in Cork and across Ireland fully reopened after some were closed or scaled back over the Christmas period.
A further 6,735 cases of Covid-19 were reported yesterday. The figures show that 461 Covid-19 patients are in hospital, 91 of whom are in intensive care. The overall positivity rate, among all swabs taken, was nearly 50%. Health officials believe 87% of cases in Ireland are now due to the Omicron variant.