THE Covid-19 vaccine will not be mandatory for school children in Ireland, Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly has confirmed.
He said there was "absolutely no suggestion" that unvaccinated kids couldn't return to school when the academic year begins again in September.
It comes following news that all 12 to 15-year-olds in Ireland will be offered the vaccine over the coming weeks as part of the country's continued fight against Covid-19.
Speaking to RTÉ Radio One's Morning Ireland, Minister Donnelly said it was "ethical and right" to protect children and society from coronavirus, but that it was up to parents to decide if their child should be vaccinated.
He also said that 12 to 15-year-olds with underlying health conditions will be prioritised for Covid-19 vaccines, as the rollout programme begins to focus on children.
"There was a particular emphasis in the NIAC advice on vaccinating children who have underlying conditions and vaccinating children who live with, or are in social or family circles with adults who have underlying conditions," Donnelly said.
"I think it's likely there will be a role for GPs, particularly where parents have a child with an underlying condition, they have a relationship with a GP, they'd like to talk to their GP, parents will have some very reasonable questions they want to discuss, and they might want the GP to administer the vaccine as well."
The Minister added that children will need permission from their parents to get vaccinated, and that a parent must accompany their child to the vaccination centres.
"Ultimately, the consent and the permission comes from the parents, they will always do what's right for their child and a lot of parents now, I think, are really welcoming of this news and they're looking forward to getting their children vaccinated,” he said.