Covid-19: Vulnerable children over 12 may be next in line for vaccines

Government to get guidance from Niac on whether to vaccinate 12- to 15-year-olds

Deputy chief medical officer Dr Ronan Glynn said the spread of false, inaccurate and misleading information ‘has undermined vaccination efforts in many countries, prolonging the pandemic and putting lives at risk’. Photograph: Colin Keegan/Collins

Deputy chief medical officer Dr Ronan Glynn said the spread of false, inaccurate and misleading information ‘has undermined vaccination efforts in many countries, prolonging the pandemic and putting lives at risk’. Photograph: Colin Keegan/Collins

 

Fresh advice on vaccinating children over the age of 12 will be given to Government next week, with Ministers pushing for children with underlying conditions to be prioritised.

The National Immunisation Advisory Committee (Niac) is expected to provide new guidance next week around whether 12- to 15-year-olds should receive a Covid-19 vaccine.

Some Government sources believe Niac may opt for a conservative approach along the lines of what authorities have opted for in Britain. Children in the UK will get a Covid vaccine only if they are over 12 and extremely vulnerable, or live with someone at risk.

Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly is understood to have asked if children with underlying conditions could be prioritised, which will take careful examination.

It is understood that if Niac does decide to recommend a wider vaccination programme for 12- to 15-year-olds, beyond that which is in place in the UK, appointments could be rolled out within weeks.

Consent from parents would be needed and a specific information campaign would be mounted by the Government.

Sources also said the vaccine portal is expected to open next week for those who are 16 and 17.

The European Medicines Agency on Friday gave the green light for the Moderna jab to be used in children aged between 12 and 17 and said studies showed no new side effects from the vaccine in kids.

Booster programme

Meanwhile, the Health Service Executive (HSE) has begun mapping out how a programme of booster vaccinations against Covid-19 could be rolled out over the winter.

Senior sources involved in the vaccine rollout believe a booster programme will likely take place, perhaps in November or December, although no decision has been taken yet. Any decision would need to be informed by advice on the usefulness of boosters, as well as potentially the mixing of different shots.

Meanwhile, new guidelines for the hospitality sector were being finalised on Friday night ahead of the reopening of indoor dining from Monday.

Pubs and restaurants were told that they will have to take contact details for every patron, in a move which has angered stakeholders.

While a customer was already expected to provide their vaccination cert as well as photo ID, each customer will now also have to give their contact details for tracing purposes. The Government has decided that every entrance to an establishment will need to be staffed.

Ahead of Monday’s reopening, Minister for Arts and Culture Catherine Martin has written to Mr Donnelly to ask if the new plans for indoor hospitality could transfer to the live events sector.

“I am actively seeking a reopening but of course, under the current circumstances with Delta [variant], we have to be cautious as well.”

As a further 1,386 confirmed cases of Covid-19 were reported in the State, the Department of Health warned of the risk of misinformation surrounding Covid-19 vaccines impeding the public health effort.

Misleading

Urging people to think before sharing material online, deputy chief medical officer Dr Ronan Glynn said the spread of false, inaccurate and misleading information “has undermined vaccination efforts in many countries, prolonging the pandemic and putting lives at risk”.

More than 800 social media posts that were “potentially harmful to people’s health or contain deliberate misinformation in relation to a range of health topics including vaccines” have been reported by the HSE to social networks since February, said a HSE spokeswoman.

Measures were also being rolled out to ensure these high rates continue among communities found to be more reluctant to get the jab based on international data, she said.

A spokesman for the Department of Health said there was an “infodemic” happening in tandem with the pandemic, adding that the Government was working with public health doctors to address misinformation through “various channels” including the Nphet press briefings, media interviews and content on its own social media channels.

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