Readers like you keep news free for everyone.

More than 5,000 readers have already pitched in to keep free access to The Journal.

For the price of one cup of coffee each week you can help keep paywalls away.

Support us today
Not now
Tuesday 5 December 2023 Dublin: 3°C
vaccine rollout

Secondary students: 'Covid jab rollout welcome but it's vital we're part of conversation'

Parental consent will have to be given for those aged 12-15.

SECONDARY SCHOOL STUDENTS have welcomed the government’s decision to roll out the Covid-19 vaccine to those aged 12-15, as they are due to return to schools in a matter of weeks.

Cabinet this week agreed that children aged between 12 and 15 are to be offered a Covid-19 vaccine, with registration likely to open from next month.

Parental consent will have to be given for this cohort and an information campaign specifically for parents is to be launched soon.

Speaking to, Eoin Connelly, secretary of the Irish Second-Level Students’ Union (ISSU), said the news was welcome and came earlier than students were expecting.

However he said it is “vital” that young people are part of the discussion as their parents and guardians are deciding whether to give consent for the vaccine.

“They’re the ones getting the shot and they may have some unaddressed questions about it, it’s a no-brainer in my opinion that they have to have the opportunity to discuss it and make sure they are comfortable going in,” he said.

“I think you’re always going to get a certain level [of hesitancy], I don’t have that myself, I have absolute confidence in it and I think the vast majority do, but I know it is there. Some people may have some concerns, but some young people in vulnerable groups are already vaccinated and are fine and once it’s rolled out more I think a lot of that hesitancy will go down.”

Connelly said the ISSU is working on campaigns to encourage people to get a Covid vaccination, but he said it would be helpful if government information campaigns were also directed towards younger people.

“I think even when we get back to schools, having it talked about there would be a good idea as you have a pretty captive audience. A lot of the concerns are very easy to dispel once people sit down and talk about it. It’s all about providing straightforward information.”

Suzanne Connelly, Barnardos CEO, told The Journal it will be important that parents and guardians are “very comfortable with the facts” around vaccines ahead of discussions with their children about them.

“Each child is different, but talk to the child and give them the facts in a way that child can hear it. Ask them what their views are: ‘Do you have any worries? What do you think of it?’. 

“I’m aware that the department is going to issue a factsheet [for parents] and I think that needs to be very straightforward and transparent.”

She said any campaigns or information leaflets about vaccines for children should be designed in a way that parents can share them with their child and use them to help answer any questions they may have. 

“The language needs to be quite simple and we’d like the government and medics to acknowledge what we don’t know too. I think people can make an informed decision with confidence then, based on facts. It’s important in terms of managing any behaviour on social media that might try to scare people.”

‘Benefits exceed the risk’

At yesterday’s NPHET briefing, Karina Butler, chair of the National Immunisation Advisory Committee (NIAC) said it is “very reasonable” for parents to pause and think about whether their children should be vaccinated. 

She said that while Covid is overwhelmingly a mild illness in children, there will be  a small number of children who will have severe disease and require hospitalisation. 

“Beyond that there’s the impact of the pandemic where we have seen an increase in anxiety, an increase in eating disorders, fear of mingling, feeling that adults are pulling away from them, disruption to their normal growth and development,” she said.

“Taking all that into account, we felt that the benefits of vaccination exceeded any risk associated with the vaccine for children.”

Butler said NIAC and the Department of Health conducted focus groups with young people to seek their views on the issue.

“One could only be struck by their maturity in thinking about it, and quite reasonably, they weren’t so worried about the consequences of infection for them, because that is a rare event that they would end up in hospital or in an ICU, but they were concerned about everything else,” she said.

They were concerned about the fact that they might unwittingly pass it to someone else. They were concerned that their lives have been disrupted; they talked about wanting to get back to that life that they liked before Covid. They’ve been through a hard year and they saw it as the vaccine would have benefits for them. 

Reopening of schools

The government has said there will be no requirement for a child to be vaccinated in order to return to school in September. Minister for Education Norma Foley said new variants of Covid do not change infection prevention and control measures required in schools.

She said the department is planning for a full reopening in August and September. 

Results of a survey published by Barnardos yesterday revealed 41% of children are happy about returning to school, with a further 17% saying they are excited, while 14% are worried and 8% are sad. One fifth of children in the survey said they didn’t care about returning to school.

Parents in the survey expressed concern about their children’s behaviour and their ability to return to the structure of the school setting. A majority of both primary and secondary school parents said their children will need support on returning to school. 

The Barnardos CEO told The Journal that the pandemic has made it clear that school is not just about education for children and that it “plays an important role in their overall wellbeing and lives”. 

“We’re asking the government that while they’re rightly paying attention to ventilation, there also needs to be an understanding that children will need support emotionally and socially,” Suzanne Connelly said.

“We provide that ourselves through breakfast clubs and afternoon groups and it makes a big difference so as needed that could be done on a wider scale. We’d like the minister to make a discretionary budget available to schools for this.”

Your Voice
Readers Comments
This is YOUR comments community. Stay civil, stay constructive, stay on topic. Please familiarise yourself with our comments policy here before taking part.
Leave a Comment
    Submit a report
    Please help us understand how this comment violates our community guidelines.
    Thank you for the feedback
    Your feedback has been sent to our team for review.

    Leave a commentcancel