Online booking system for Covid-19 vaccines for children aged 5-11 opens

HSE urges parents with concerns to turn to ‘trusted sources’ for information

Parents and guardians of children aged five to 11 years can now book online for their child to be vaccinated against Covid-19.

A HSE online booking system opened on Sunday, allowing parents and guardians to arrange for their child to be vaccinated at a “time that suits them” including during the midterm break, Dr Lucy Jessop, director of public health at the national immunisation office said.

Children in this age group will be vaccinated in separate clinics to those aged 12 or over. This younger age group will also receive a different Covid-19 vaccine dose to the one given to older children and adults, said a HSE statement. Even if the child turns 12 between their first and second dose, they must still get the dosage given to younger children, it added.

Hospital Report

Children must attend their appointment with a parent or guardian and will not be vaccinated if they arrive alone. They must also wait 21 days after their first dose before booking for the second jab.

Dr Jessop urged parents to ensure any information they consume on the vaccination comes from a “trusted source” such as the HSE or a medical professional.

The Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine was approved for use in children aged five to 11 by the European Medicines Agency (EMA) in November. The EMA reported at the time that any side effects tended to be mild or moderate and improved within a few days of vaccination.

It concluded that “the benefits of Comirnaty [the Pfizer vaccine] in children aged five to 11 outweigh the risks, particularly in those with conditions that increase the risk of severe Covid-19”.

Chair of the National Immunisation Advisory Council Prof Karina Butler has encouraged parents and guardians to get their younger children vaccinated but acknowledged that many would have genuine concerns and questions about its safety.

“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 last month.

About one in every 2,250 child under 18 who has so far received a Covid-19 vaccine has reported a suspected side-effect, according to the Health Products Regulatory Authority’s latest safety update.

Overall, the authority says, the reports received are consistent with the types of reports received for adults, with most being mild to moderate in nature. Many had resolved or were resolving at the time of reporting, it said.

The most commonly reported side-effect among children (325 reports) was “general symptoms and local reactions” such as tiredness, weakness, chest pain and feeling hot.

Ireland has one of the highest Covid-19 vaccination rates in the world. More than 10 million jabs have been given since December 2020. Some 95 per cent of all adults have had two vaccine doses and Ireland has close to the highest rates of booster vaccinations in the European Union.

However, vaccine take-up among children aged between five and 11 has been slower than it was in the adult population. Just 22 per cent of this age group had received a first dose by February 12th and only 9 per cent have been fully vaccinated.

From Monday, Covid-19 restrictions on nursing homes are to be significantly relaxed, with family members being allowed visit even if residents are infected.

Under the new guidelines, a “nominated support person” will be allowed access to a resident, even if the resident has Covid-19”, as long as they are made aware of the risks involved, the Department of Health said.

On Sunday, the Church of Ireland’s two archbishops said the speed with which Covid restrictions had been lifted on the island, north and south, “has taken many of us by surprise, and it will no doubt take some time for each of us to adjust, not only our social arrangements, but also our mental outlook in the months ahead.”

In a statement, they said: “Risk assessments will continue to be a feature of parish life, and each of us, clergy and lay people, will need to make many judgements about exactly how and at what pace we move into our greater freedoms.

“At the same time there is a new sense of hope,” said Church of Ireland Primate Archbishop John McDowell and Archbishop of Dublin Michael Jackson.

Sorcha Pollak

Sorcha Pollak

Sorcha Pollak is an Irish Times reporter and cohost of the In the News podcast

Patsy McGarry

Patsy McGarry

Patsy McGarry is Religious Affairs Correspondent of The Irish Times