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Taoiseach: 'No issue vaccinating young children, but we must ask if vaccines need to go to others'

Martin said we have to ‘up the level of vaccination in less developed regions’.

Image: Marc O'Sullivan

TAOISEACH MICHEÁL MARTIN has said he has “no issue” with children over 5 getting the vaccine, but said “at some point” we will have to ask if vaccine resources can be deployed to those more in need.

Pfizer and Biontech have said trial results show their Covid-19 vaccine is safe and produced an immune response in children aged five to 11.

The vaccine would be administered at a lower dosage than for people over 12, they said.

They plan to submit their data to regulatory bodies in the European Union, the United States and around the world “as soon as possible”.

The trial results are the first of their kind for children under 12, with a Moderna trial for six to 11 year olds still ongoing.

Both the Pfizer and Moderna jabs are already being administered to adolescents over 12 and adults in countries around the globe.

When asked if he would be in favour of such a move, the Taoiseach said:

“I’ve no issue with the principle of that. But I would be bound by public health guidance in respect of the public health who will have to weigh up the benefits for the child in respect of receiving the vaccine as opposed to the risks to the child.

“So that will have to be a public health and clinical issue that would be assessed in the first instance by the National Immunisation Advisory Committee (NIAC) and by the Public Health Division, particularly the chief medical officer,” he said.

Martin said that we vaccinate children in a whole range of other areas, saying that overall vaccines have been extremely effective historically in dealing with many, many viruses.

However, the Taoiseach added that there are other considerations to take on board before such a decision should be considered. 

He said it remains to be seen in terms of the risk assessment whether vaccinating children against Covid-19 would be beneficial to them.

The Taoiseach also noted that such a move might be more favourable in the US given their varying vaccination rates – something that Ireland does not need to contend with.

The Taoiseach said that speaking to people in New York during the week, they just couldn’t that Ireland’s vaccination rate was hitting over 90%, as many parts of the United States are hovering at around 50% or less.

Martin also said that other than Ireland being in a very different situation than the US, there should be considerations about whether the vaccines should now go to countries that are struggling to get vaccine supplies. 

“We have to be conscious of Africa is at a very low single digit number – on to 3% in some countries in Africa. So there is a point in time and we’ve got to say, the vaccines needs to be used elsewhere,” he said, adding that before young children might be considered, booster shots for frontline healthcare workers for example might be a better use of the stock. 

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“We have to really up the level of vaccination in less developed regions. So these are considerations we will have to seriously take on board as a country because the mutations will grow, variants will arise,” he said.

During the week, it emerged that Vietnam asked for Ireland’s assistance in sourcing Covid-19 vaccines.

Taoiseach Micheál Martin met with the Vietnam president Nguyen Xuan Phuc at the opening session of the United Nations General Assembly in New York.

It is understood the Taoiseach said he would take the request back to the EU.

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