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Taoiseach: 'I think we have to approach vaccination of children with sensitivity'

Comprehensive information and guidance will be offered to parents, said Micheál Martin.

THE GOVERNMENT MUST approach the issue of vaccinating children with “sensitivity”, Taoiseach Micheál Martin has said.

The vaccination of children under 12 began on 20 December for vulnerable cohorts, while further cohort vaccinations in children will commence on 10 January.

When asked about hesitancy among parents to vaccinate their children, the Taoiseach said: “I think we have to approach it with sensitivity. We have to provide very comprehensive information and guidance to parents.”

“The clinicians and doctors will be providing that information along with our public health leadership teams and that’s the way we approach all vaccination programmes particularly with children,” Martin added.

While Sinn Féin has called for the Covid-19 vaccine rollout for children to take place in schools, the Taoiseach said that children will “more than likely” be vaccinated in “separate facilities”.

“It will be a very important part of giving people security in respect of Omicron and also new variants will arrive as well which can have different impacts,” he said.

He added: “So all in all, I think we will be recommending strongly that parents do facilitate their children getting vaccinated but we understand the sensitivities involved.”

“I mean historically with vaccines, we’ve all experienced being vaccinated as children through a range of vaccines and vaccination programmes so it’s not something new.”

Ireland has one of the highest vaccinations rate globally, the Taoiseach continued.

“I think people will reflect on it and I think by and large it will help children,” Martin said.

The next cohort of children will be able to register for their vaccine from 3 January and the majority of children will be eligible from 10 January.

The Taoiseach has previously stated that vaccination will not be a prerequisite for children to enter into schools.

Minister for Education Norma Foley and the HSE’s Chief Clinical Officer Dr Colm Henry yesterday met representatives from school management bodies and trade unions to discuss the reopening of schools in the new year.

At the meeting, public health representatives committed to carrying out a review of public health measures in schools, with particular emphasis on outbreaks of Covid-19 in schools.

Minister Foley told RTÉ’s News At One programme that yesterday’s meeting was “positive and constructive”.  

Addressing a question about whether schools would reopen as planned in January, Foley said that children and young people are disadvantaged when they don’t have the opportunity to receive in-person teaching.

“We have learned in Covid, that there are many twists and turns and that we need to be resilient in how we meet those challenges,” she said.

“We will follow the public health advice, we will do what needs to be done to ensure that our schools can operate.”

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