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Five to 12 year olds are now the age group with the highest Covid incidence rate

Prof Breda Smyth said that children in this age group are in contact with one another “a lot”.

Image: Sam Boal

DEPUTY CMO DR Ronan Glynn said that NPHET is analysing the Covid-19 incidence in children aged 5-12, which is currently the age group with the highest incidence of Covid-19.

“We’re watching that very closely, and we’re doing further analysis in that age group at the moment,” Dr Glynn said in response to a question from The Journal at today’s NPHET briefing

“It’s not entirely clear what’s driving it in that age group over and above others – if there is something different happening there, and as I said, that’s not clear.”

NPHET’s analysis of Irish data and international studies indicate that children are less likely to transmit Covid-19 than unvaccinated adults.

Last week, chair of NPHET’s Irish Epidemiological Modelling Advisory Group Dr Philip Nolan said that modelling that tracked the transmission of Covid from the end of August according to age groups indicated that “the unvaccinated group of children are not transmitting the virus in the same way as an unvaccinated adult would”.

“If children contribute less to the propagation of the infection, then peaks of disease will be longer and lower than they otherwise would be.”

Today, Dr Glynn said that the incidence of Covid-19 is increasing across all age groups, but that the incidence was the highest in the 5-12 age group.

The mRNA Covid-19 vaccine is approved for use in those aged 12 and older in Ireland. 90% of people aged over 12 in Ireland are fully vaccinated, while 415,000 people aged 12 and older are not fully vaccinated.

This week, the US moved a step closer to expanding Covid-19 vaccinations for millions more children as advisers endorsed the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for kids aged 5-11.

Speaking at today’s NPHET briefing, Dr Glynn said:

“I think the key message at this point is that across all age groups, we’re seeing an increase. Obviously, we will focus on that age group over the coming days to see if there’s anything else that needs to be done over and above what’s currently being done.

“But I think the message today has to be to all parts of society to look at the behaviours.”

In relation to parents in particular, NPHET again advised parents to keep their children at home if they have Covid-19 symptoms.

Professor Breda Smyth, Director of Public Health for HSE West said:

“It’s really important that parents take the responsibility of keeping children with symptoms at home onto their 48 hours symptom free. If it is symptoms that are suggestive of Covid they need to get a Covid test.”

Prof Smyth said that children in this age group are in contact with one another “a lot”.

So it’s really important that we prevent the transmission within this age group. This is one area that really could prevent further cases – by taking this action and keeping children with symptoms at home until they’re symptom free.

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Dr Glynn added:

“At this time last year, we would have been talking about a ‘contact budget’, and we’re not talking about a contact budget now – so people can meet with as many people as they want. Children can meet up with as many other children as their parents want.

If your children are going on playdates or engaging in sports, think about all of the other activities they’re engaging in and – do they need to be engaging in everything that they’re engaging in at a point in time, given a high diseases incidences in the country at the moment?”

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