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Government to consider prioritising under-18s with health conditions for Covid-19 vaccine

Under-18s are currently listed in the final grouping.

THE GOVERNMENT IS to consider prioritising teenagers who have underlying health conditions to receive the Covid-19 vaccine, the Dáil has been told.

Tánaiste Leo Varadkar said older teenagers who have underlying health conditions may be in the high-risk group.

Earlier this week, the government published its priority groups for the vaccine, which is likely to be available in January.

Under-18s are currently listed in the final grouping.

Varadkar said the prioritisation list was based on advice from the National Public Health Emergency Team (Nhpet) and the National Immunisation Advisory Committee, but added it was “not set in stone”.

Social Democrats co-leader Roisin Shortall said the vaccine has given people “terrific hope” all over the world.

She added that everyone in Ireland is “anxiously waiting” for the government’s announcement on the proposed rollout of the vaccine.

“On Tuesday, the Minister for Health (Stephen Donnelly) released the first report in relation to proposed priority groupings for that vaccine,” Shortall told the Dail.

“I’m particularly concerned about the last cohort, that’s the 14th grouping to last get it and that’s the under-18s. The under-18s who have underlying health conditions.

There is a very significant number of teenagers in this country who have serious underlying health conditions.

She said the impact of Covid-19 on teenagers with health issues has been “huge”.

“It was a terrible blow to people in those circumstances to hear they are last on the list to get the vaccine,” Ms Shortall added.

She urged the Tanaiste to reconsider and push teenagers further up the priority list.

PastedImage-53854 The current vaccine sequencing list.

“The prioritisation list… is based on medical and scientific advice,” Varadkar said.

“We did not make any modifications to it. We accepted as it was presented to us.

It is not set in stone, it can evolve as new information emerges and we learn more about the virus and vaccines, and as vaccines are approved it may need to be modified.

“We expect one vaccine, Pfizer, to be approved within weeks, but within months there could be six approved and it won’t be the same.”

He said the last group includes under-18s and pregnant women because the risk of those groups of people becoming sick or dying from coronavirus is “very low”.

“They are in the safest group and also there haven’t been many children or pregnant women involved in clinical trials,” he added.

“Those older teenagers who have underlying health conditions may be in the high-risk group and I think that needs to be considered.

“I will take that up with the chief medical officer.”

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