All children aged 5 to 11 years will be offered a primary dose of Covid-19 vaccine from today.
In a joint statement on Friday, Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly, Chief Medical Officer Dr Tony Holohan and chair of the National Immunisation Advisory Council Prof Karina Butler encouraged parents and guardians to bring their children for vaccination.
Vaccination for children in this age group who have underlying health conditions or who live with someone at higher risk from Covid had already begun but the programme now opens to all in this age cohort.
Dr Holohan said that while we know most children in the 5-11 age group will experience a very mild form of this disease, a small few may become severely ill.
“Vaccines are doing an excellent job of preventing severe illness and disease in those who are fully vaccinated. This is good news. Getting your child vaccinated is a decision between you and your child. I encourage all parents and guardians to engage with the trusted health advice available on the HSE website, and with your own family clinician if you have any concerns about bringing your child for this vaccine,” he said.
Prof Butler said many parents and guardians will have genuine concerns and questions about Covid-19 vaccination for their children. “However, when the available evidence relating to the risk Covid-19 can pose to some children, as well as the significant negative impact on the lives of all of them, particularly the educational and social lives of our children, are considered, the benefits of vaccination far outweigh the risks,” she said.
Meanwhile as various sectors struggle with staffing issues due to the virus, Nursing Homes Ireland (NHI) said a recent snapshot survey of 100 of its members found 8 per cent of staff are unavailable to work due to Covid-19.
Tadhg Daly, NHI chief executive, said staff have endured an extremely difficult two years and very severe pressures continue to present.
Irish Rail said while there has been an increasing number of staff absent due to the virus, the "vast majority of services" have continued across the network.
Virtually all services – apart from four on Saturday – will run over the weekend, a spokesman said, while 96 per cent of services will run on Monday and Tuesday.
Dublin Bus said it is currently operating a full timetable. However, due to higher than usual levels of employee absence, there are "minor disruptions to a limited number of our timetabled services".
An Post said its services are under pressure but they are in "good shape" going into the weekend, and will be prioritising the delivery of antigen tests.
Separately healthcare workers caring for residents of nursing homes and other care centres have been advised to wear respirator masks, under new advice from the Health Service Executive.
New guidelines to take effect from January 17th say healthcare workers should wear a respirator mask such as an FFP2 mask, rather than a disposable surgical mask for all resident care activity.
They can wear surgical masks when interacting with colleagues in settings other than caring for residents, according to the advice from the HSE’s health protection surveillance centre.
Residents who contract Covid and are fully vaccinated, including a booster, will have to self-isolate for 10 days, down from 14 days, under a separate changed recommended by the surveillance centre.
The self-isolation period for vaccinated members of the general public was reduced from 14 days to 10 days last year, but the longer period was kept for residential settings. With the self-isolation period for the public cut further to seven days in the last month, it has now been decided to reduce the period to 10 days in residential settings.
The change also applies to residents who are vaccinated but unable to get a booster shot due to recent infection.
The number of deaths in Northern Ireland linked to Covid-19 has now topped 4,000. Another 18 fatalities were recorded in the week from December 25th to the 31st, according to data compiled by the Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency, bringing total deaths in the pandemic to 4,024.