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Children aged 5-11 can get the Covid-19 vaccine from today

Health authorities are encouraging parents and guardians to get their children vaccinated.

Health Minister Stephen Donnelly
Health Minister Stephen Donnelly
Image: PA

ALL 5-11 YEAR-OLDS who are registered for a vaccine will be able to get their primary dose from today.  

In a statement yesterday, Health Minister Stephen Donnelly, Chief Medical Officer Dr Tony Holohan and Chair of the National Immunisation Advisory Council Professor Karina Butler encouraged parents and guardians to bring their children to receive a jab. 

The Christmas period saw record rates of infections in the country, with 7,411 new cases confirmed on 23 December, and 20,554 confirmed on 30 December 2021.

Ireland’s paediatric vaccination programme is underway, with vaccines available since Monday to children aged 5 to 11 who are at risk of severe illness from Covid-19 due to underlying health conditions, or who live with someone at-risk.  

Speaking on RTÉ’s Saturday with Katie Hannon, Director of Public Health in the National Immunisation Office Dr Lucy Jessop said that 77,000 children have been registered for the vaccine over the last few days out of a cohort of 480,000.

When asked about vaccine hesitancy among parents, she said: “I wouldn’t call it vaccine hesitancy. I think parents have concerns obviously. They absolutely would like good information on the vaccine. They want to make sure it is safe for children,” she said.

“We we launched our information campaign a couple of weeks ago around that to give parents time to look into that information and discuss it if they need to with a trusted healthcare professional like their GP or a pharmacist.

So it’s not so much vaccine hesitancy. I think parents are taking their time to consider the information and to decide whether that’s the best decision for their children to be vaccinated.

She said that around 200 children have been hospitalised with Covid over the past two years, while about half those occurred since June of last year. She added that 12 children hospitalised with the virus required intensive care.

“There are some children, unfortunately, who do need to go to hospital and do need intensive care. Of those who were hospitalised, 70% did not have an underlying condition.”

Mary Favier, Covid advisor to the Irish College of General Practitioners and a member of NPHET, told RTÉ’s Brendan O’Connor programme this morning that there is “some optimism” about the current Covid situation despite the current high level case numbers.

“There is some optimism that we are managing and getting through it with some very difficult disruption,” she said.

She also said that there are not many people getting “really sick” from the virus.

“In my practice we haven’t sent anybody to hospital and we haven’t even had to consider it, so that sets a ground for optimism.”

In a statement yesterday, Minister Donnelly said: “As we wait for more evidence to emerge on the severity of infection with the Omicron variant, it is important that we continue to encourage all of those eligible for vaccination to come forward.”

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“It is important to discuss the Covid-19 vaccine with your child. As a parent of children in this age group myself, I know that children have many questions about Covid-19 and about this vaccine,” he added.

Holohan said that “while we know that most children in the 5 – 11 age group will experience a very mild form of this disease, for a small few, they may become severely ill.”

Butler said that, in recommending vaccination for this age group, NIAC “considered the potential risks and benefits of vaccination, including the direct and indirect effects on health and wellbeing in this age group.”

She said that she understands many parents and guardians will have genuine concerns and questions about the vaccine for their children.

However, she added that the threat Covid-19 poses to children includes the “significant negative impact on … the educational and social lives of our children”, and that the benefits of vaccination “far outweigh the risks.” 

Today, a record 26,122 new cases of Covid were reported in Ireland, with 917 people in hospital with the virus, 83 of whom are receiving treatment in intensive care.

With reporting from Jane Moore

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