THE GOVERNMENT has approved the use of the Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine for children aged 5-11.
It comes after the National Immunisation Advisory Committee (NIAC) recommended its use in that age cohort to the Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly.
In advising the government, NIAC has placed extra emphasis on its use in children with underlying health conditions, children who live with a younger child with complex medical needs and children who live with an immunocompromised adult.
Priority will be given to children who fall into these categories, before the rollout begins in all other 5-11 year olds.
The Department of Health says that for most children Covid-19 is a mild illness, but for a small minority the illness will be more serious.
The vaccine is already used in children over the age of 12, and NIAC has recommended that for children aged 5-11 years a dose of 10 µg (as compared with 30 µg in those aged over 12 years) should be given as part of a two-dose schedule, three weeks apart.
"Today’s news is another positive step forward in our country’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic," Minister Donnelly said.
"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."
He also said the benefits of the current booster programme is evident in those aged over 75 in whom the incidence rate of the virus is reducing.
He urged people not to wait until after Christmas to get vaccinated, as "the benefits of receiving your booster dose far outweigh any potential risks that may arise in the meantime."
"It is vital that all of us prioritise our booster appointments as soon as we receive them or make the time to attend a walk-in vaccination clinic if that option is available."
The Department of Health also said it will now work with the HSE to operationalise these updates.
Yesterday, Taoiseach Micheál Martin also expressed concern at the numbers of people not showing up to their booster vaccine appointment.
He told the Dáil that out of 208,000 booster vaccine appointments in the week commencing November 22, only 80,000 showed up to get the jab.
"I have to say the most important collective message we as a House can give to people today is to take your booster vaccine when you’re offered it.
"The same urgency doesn’t seem to be there in terms of availing the of the option to take the booster as was there when we offered the first dose and the second dose."
He also said that the first batch of vaccines for children are due to arrive in Ireland on 15 December.