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NIAC recommends all children aged 5 to 11 should be offered Covid vaccine

The Pfizer vaccine was first recommended for children between 5-11 in late November

Image: Shutterstock/Alexxndr

Updated Dec 8th 2021, 1:20 PM

HEALTH MINISTER STEPHEN Donnelly has accepted recommendations from the National Immunisation Advisory Council (NIAC) that children aged 5-11 be offered the Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine.

The recommendations were issued by NIAC and endorsed by Chief Medical Officer Dr Tony Holohan, a statement from the Department of Health said. 

The Pfizer vaccine was first approved by the European Medicines Agency for use in children between 5-11 in late November.

NIAC have also “strongly recommended” that children aged 5-11 years who have an underlying condition, who live with a younger child with complex medical needs or who are living with a immunocompromised adult receive the Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine.

In the Dáil today, Taoiseach Micheál Martin said that vaccines to these groups are recommended to be provided “in parallel” with the booster doses for all age groups currently being provided. 

The statement issued by the Department said NIAC also recommended “that vaccination should be offered to all children aged 5-11 years”.

Martin said these vaccines should be offered in parallel with the rollout of boosters to age groups under 40. No date has yet been given for when under-40s will begin to get boosters but the HSE is currently working its way through the age cohorts, with over-50s to be offered appointments from tomorrow. 

Donnelly said in this morning’s statement that the move from NIAC was “another positive step forward in our country’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic.”

“As the country continues to experience a high incidence of disease, we have seen a significant increase in confirmed cases of COVID-19 in this age group.

“While we know that most children will experience a very mild form of this disease if they pick it up, for a small few, they may become severely ill.

“Extending the possibility of vaccination to this age group offers another layer of protection to our children, and to those around them.”

Speaking to reporters this morning, Tánaiste Leo Varadkar said that an information for parents will be rolled out and which will answer any and all questions surrounding the safety and efficacy of the vaccine for children. 

He said it is absolutely the choice of parents alone whether they want to have their children vaccinated or not. 

The HSE are now set to work with the Department of Health to operationalise these new recommendations.

An Taoiseach said that public health authorities are to begin working on a plan for the rollout of the vaccines and an information campaign for parents “within a number of days”. 

“I think we now need to give time to the Department of Health and the HSE to comprehensively deal with this, they will announce the comprehensive plan along with an information campaign,” he said.

Smaller dose

The EMA’s recommendation asks that children receive the vaccine as part of a two-dose schedule, three weeks apart.

The dose being recommended is also smaller compared to the dose received by anyone over the age of 12, with children between 5-11 set to get a 10 µg dose compared to a 30 µg dose.

In a statement by the EMA when it approved the vaccine for use in those aged 5-11, they said that the vaccine showed 90.7% efficacy in preventing symptomatic Covid-19.

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“The most common side effects in children aged 5 to 11 are similar to those in people aged 12 and above. They include pain at the injection site, tiredness, headache, redness and swelling at the site of injection, muscle pain and chills. These effects are usually mild or moderate and improve within a few days of vaccination,” the statement said.

“The EMA’s human medicines committee  therefore concluded that the benefits of the Comirnaty (Pfizer) vaccine in children aged 5 to 11 outweigh the risks, particularly in those with conditions that increase the risk of severe Covid-19.”

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