The North's chief medical officer is to recommend that children aged 12 to 15 in Northern Ireland should be offered a first dose of Covid-19 vaccine.
On Monday the CMOs in the four devolved nations of the UK said in advice to the London government that children in that age group should be vaccinated “on public health grounds” and in order to help reduce the transmission of the virus in schools.
The decision on whether to approve vaccination for 12 to 15-year-olds in Northern Ireland is expected to be made by the North’s Minister for Health shortly.
Dr Michael McBride told reporters at a press conference on Monday afternoon that he intended to recommend to “parents and children in Northern Ireland that they avail of the opportunity of the vaccine.
“Our children, we know, have suffered very significantly as a result of the pandemic in terms of disruption to their education,” he said.
Like his counterparts in the rest of the UK, he said, he would work with the relevant bodies to “ensure that the information and advice to ensure that parents and children can make an informed decision is available to them.”
The UK’s Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) had previously decided not to recommend mass vaccination of 12 to 15-year-olds as it would offer only a marginal benefit for healthy children, but had suggested wider issues such as the impact of Covid-19 on children’s education should be considered by CMOs.
The North’s Covid-19 vaccination programme is currently open to everyone aged 16 and over.
Meanwhile eight more people with Covid-19 have died in Northern Ireland, the North's Department of Health said on Monday. A further 1,199 positive cases of the virus were identified.
A total of 401 people were receiving hospital treatment for Covid-19 on Monday, with 41 in intensive care.