The National Immunisation Advisory Committee has recommended a reduced dose vaccine for children aged five to 11-years-old.

The Health Minister Stephen Donnelly has now accepted the recommendation and children in three cohorts will now be prioritised for the jab:

  • Those living with an underlying condition
  • Those living with a younger child with complex medical needs
  • Those living with an immunocompromised adult

They will be offered the vaccine alongside other people around the country who are living with underlying conditions.

All other children will then be offered the reduced dose jab.

Speaking this afternoon, the Tánaiste Leo Varadkar said it will be up to parents to decide whether or not to vaccinate their child.

“It is going to be a massive challenge, but I think it is fair to say the HSE has done a very good job to date on the vaccine programme,” he said.

“I have no doubt there are going to be wrinkles and going to be issues as we go along but I have very high confidence in the HSE to get the third doses out to everyone who needs them – which is the adult population – and to get the first doses to the children as well.”

The Tánaiste Leo Varadkar. Image: Kacey O’Riordan/NewstalkThe Tánaiste Leo Varadkar at the launch of BD Drogheda’s new production facility. Image: Kacey O’Riordan/Newstalk

Minister Donnelly said the approval is “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,” he said.

“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.”

The children will be offered two one-third doses of the Pfizer vaccine, with the national rollout expected to begin in January.

The two doses will be administered three weeks apart.

Minister Donnelly said the booster rollout is beginning to take effect in the over-75 age group where “we are already beginning to see a significant reduction” in cases.

“This is really good news and shows the benefits of receiving a third/booster dose,” he said.

“Do not wait until after Christmas to receive your booster vaccine or come forward for your first dose. The benefits of receiving your booster dose far outweigh any potential risks that may arise in the meantime.”

He said it is “vital” that people attend their booster appointments or “make the time to attend a walk-in vaccination clinic if that option is available”.

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