A senior HSE official has appealed to parents of children and young teens to get them vaccinated, saying the benefits outweigh the risks.
Chief clinical officer Dr Colm Henry said experts spent a long time analysing the facts and evidence before issuing advice to the Government about vaccinating children.
Registration for Covid-19 vaccines for 12 to 15-year-olds will open next week.
It comes as a further 1,491 new cases of Covid-19 have been recorded in the State.
As of 8am on Thursday, 193 Covid patients are in hospital, including 28 in intensive care units.
The chief medical officer, Dr Tony Holohan, said: “Vaccination offers a real way out of this pandemic. The positive news is that take-up in Ireland is extremely high, which shows people understand the benefits for themselves and for their communities of getting vaccinated.
“Those with at least a first dose in the over 40s is over 90 per cent, in the over-30s it is 84 per cent, in the 18 to 29 year age group it is over 73 per cent, and in the 16-17 year age group, it is over 46 per cent.
“These figures continue to increase, and each person who has come forward should be commended.”
Meanwhile, the North’s health department in its daily bulletin on Thursday afternoon reported three more deaths of coronavirus patients and another 1,641 new infections were confirmed.
There are 226 patients receiving Covid-19 treatment in Northern Ireland hospitals, with 39 in intensive care and 27 on ventilators. Hospital capacity is at 101 per cent.
Asked about vaccine hesitancy among parents, Dr Colm Henry said the focus of the National Immunisation Advisory Committee (Niac) has been on what is in the children’s best interest.
“Niac took a long time over this, they took a long time looking at evidence. They said they deliberated a long time over it,” Mr Henry said.
“The advice, in the document, is what is in their best interest, and while there are societal benefits to having the population vaccinated, the advice was based on what are the risks and benefits.
“Taking everything into account, taking the disruption, even mild illness, the psychosocial and educational, the benefits weighed towards getting the vaccine.”
📢 The registration for a COVID-19 vaccine for children and young people, age 12-15 will open next week.
I'm encouraging parents and these young people to seek information from reliable sources such as the HSE website https://t.co/IIIa5S5lXO#ForUsAll pic.twitter.com/CPLcevJvQ6
— Stephen Donnelly (@DonnellyStephen) August 5, 2021
Damien McCallion, the HSE’s national lead for the Covid-19 vaccination programme, said it will provide factual and trusted information to parents and guardians that they can understand.
“Niac have come with this information and we have trusted them all the way through this process and there is a huge wealth experience in Niac,” Mr McCallion added.
“They have served us well with that advice. Their decision is based on facts, on scientific evidence, on what they believed is the right thing to do.
“We will put that information out for people to make their own decision. We recognise we do need to get that advice to parents.”
The online registration system for 12 to 15-year-olds will open next Thursday, August 13th.
Six million doses
Meanwhile, the HSE administered its six millionth vaccine on Thursday morning.
HSE chief executive Paul Reid described it as a “great milestone”.
“It’s a very proud day for Ireland,” he added.
It comes as more than 30,000 people attended the walk-in vaccination centres over the weekend.
Approximately 65 per cent of people were below the age of 20, and 85 per cent of attendances were below the age of 30.
The oldest was a woman aged 83 in Co Sligo.
Mr Reid praised the number of young people who showed up “in great numbers” to be part of what he said was a “very momentous weekend”.
“We were genuinely taken aback by the overall experience over the course of the whole weekend, and particularly by a few factors,” he added.
“Firstly, the number of people who attended, and particularly younger people.
“Secondly, the attendances proved very strong all across the country, so not just in urban areas but rural areas all across the country.
“Whilst it was predominantly younger people that we saw coming through, there was also attendance by all age groups across the board.”
Mr Henry said that the positivity and encouragement in walk-in vaccine centres was “something to behold”.
He said that one centre in Co Cork opened early to cater for the large amount of people queueing outside during last weekend.
There are currently 193 people being treated in hospital for Covid-19, an increase of 26 per cent on last week.
Mr Reid said the slow and steady rise in numbers gives a “clear and stark message” that the virus is still transmitting.
More than 3.3 million people have received their first vaccine, meaning 84 per cent of adults are partially vaccinated.
More than 2.8 million have received their second dose or single dose, which is approximately 75 per cent of adults.
Some 90 per cent of the population aged over 16 have registered to get a vaccine.
Ireland has the second highest up-take rates of the vaccine in Europe, with Iceland taking the lead.
New figures from the HSE show that 75 per cent of cases in the last two weeks are in people under the age of 35, with most cases in the 19-24 age group.
Niamh O’Beirne, the HSE’s national lead for testing and tracing, said the positivity rate in testing centres is about 12 per cent and continuing to rise.
Ms O’Beirne also said that since the reopening of hospitality, there have been outbreaks in hotels and different accommodation settings.
“It’s not excessive and they are managing them,” she added.
“We haven’t heard any particular concerns with the sector and volume of outbreaks, there is just another sector for the health service to work with.”