PLANS ARE currently underway by the HSE to facilitate the rollout of the vaccine for 5-11 year olds, after the European Medical Agency (EMA) approved the use of the Pfizer vaccine in that age group.
Ireland's National Immunisation Advisory Committee (NIAC) will now consider the decision by the EMA, with delivery of the vaccines likely to take place towards the end of December.
Currently, Covid-19 vaccines are only being administered to people aged 12 and over.
Chief Executive of the HSE Paul Reid has said that they are not waiting for the decision to be made officially, and plans are already underway for the rollout of the vaccine to children.
"We welcome that decision from the EMA," he said on Morning Ireland on RTÉ Radio 1. "What we are doing immediately is finalising what will be the operating model and how we would bring, with parents' consent, children to vaccination centres, pharmacies and general practices,"
"I've asked my own team to put together a processes where we will engage with parents to get their views on what would be important for them in terms of bringing their children forward for vaccination.
"We want to make it a safe environment and a pleasant environment for young children."
When asked about the possibility of the vaccines being administered through schools, Reid said the HSE is not ruling it out, but recognised the country already has a significant vaccination centre system set up.
"We will look at all options, but the reality is that there are over 3,500 primary schools and we do have a very significant vaccination centre infrastructure all across the country, so we want to do it in the most efficient way once we get the clearance and delivery schedule.
"There are about 480,000 young children in scope, so we do see the primary channels that we have as vaccination centres, pharmacies and GPs but we won't be ruling out the option of schools."
He also said that the vaccine programme for children will run in parallel with the booster programme.
Figures have shown primary school-aged children now have the highest Covid-19 incidence of any age group in Ireland, with 10,000 positive cases reported in the past fortnight.
Announcing the recommendation, the EMA said children between the ages of 5-11 should receive a lower dose of the vaccine, as a lower dose in this age group provides the same immune response as a higher dose in those aged 16-25.
Side effects of the vaccine are also reported to be the same as those older than 12, and include pain at the injection site, tiredness, headache, redness and swelling at the site of injection, muscle pain and chills.