IRELAND is weighing up rolling out Covid-19 vaccinations to children in order to achieve herd immunity, according to reports.
The vaccination of children has been a controversial topic around the world throughout the pandemic, but as the virus continues to mutate and spread around, many countries are beginning to consider it.
Dr Colm Henry, the HSE's chief clinical officer, revealed that he and his colleagues are currently considering the pros and cons of inoculating children against the virus.
The aim is for Ireland to achieve herd immunity - where a large enough proportion of the population has resistance to the virus, thus making it almost impossible for the disease to spread successfully.
It was previously estimated that Ireland would need to vaccinate just over 60% of its entire population to achieve herd immunity, but with the emergence of new strains such as the Delta variant - which is more transmissible than the original virus - that figure may jump to 85% or even 90% for herd immunity to be achieved.
If Ireland were to reach herd immunity through vaccination alone, Dr Henry said, it would require "extending [the vaccine] to children".
He acknowledged, however, that a balance needed to be struck. Children have a very low chance of both catching the virus and getting seriously ill from it, and this will need to be weighed up against any "risks the vaccine may have in younger groups."
It was revealed earlier this week that Ireland would be opening the vaccine portal to 16 and 17-year-olds, in light of fears that the country could be diagnosing 4,000 new cases per day in just matter of weeks.
In the UK, children over 12-years-old are only being offered the vaccine if they are at high risk of infection and serious illness due to pre-existing underlying health conditions.
In the US, all children aged 12 and over have been recommended the vaccine, and steps are already in place to organise the rollout for the age group.