Parents of eligible 5 to 11 years olds urged to get their child vaccinated
The Public Health Agency (PHA) is urging parents of eligible 5 to 11 year olds to get their child vaccinated without delay. The call comes following the JCVI recommendation that children aged 5 to 11 years in a clinical risk group, or children who are a household contact of someone who is immunosuppressed, should be offered the COVID-19 vaccine.
Most children who get COVID-19 have very mild symptoms or no symptoms at all. But the children being offered this vaccine have certain health conditions, putting them at higher risk of severe illness from COVID-19 and more likely to have to go to hospital, or they live with someone who is it at greater risk from COVID-19.
Dr Jillian Johnston, Joint Interim Assistant Director in Health Protection at the PHA, said: “There are approximately 25,000 children aged 5 to 11 year olds in Northern Ireland eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine and we are urging the parents of these children to take up the offer when invited.
“A new specially designed paediatric formulation of the Pfizer BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine has been approved for this age group and it’s given at a lower dose compared to that used in individuals aged 12 and above (10 micrograms compared with 30 micrograms). Like all children’s vaccines this approval was given following a robust review of data showing that it is safe and effective to use in this cohort.”
Chief medical Officer Professor Sir Michael McBride said: “I would urge all parents to take this opportunity to have your child vaccinated if they are eligible. It is the surest way to protect them from the effects of this virus.
“As we have seen in recent weeks our schools continue to reflect the high levels of transmission within the community at large. It is therefore vitally important we take advantage of every opportunity to protect our children, especially those who are particularly vulnerable”
Clinical trials have shown that this vaccine was highly effective at preventing COVID-19 in children, protecting them and also reducing the chance that they transmit the virus to others, including family members who may be more susceptible to severe consequences of the infection.
Dr Johnston continued by saying: “In Northern Ireland the childhood vaccination programmes have consistently achieved high coverage and we hope that parents will be supportive of this roll out and get their child vaccinated. Vaccination is the most important thing we can do to protect ourselves and our children against ill health.”
GPs will be writing out to these children to advise them of arrangements. We are asking parents to therefore look out for the letter. Eligible children will either receive their vaccine via dedicated Trust vaccine clinics or in school for those children attending special schools.
Dr Johnston concluded, “COVID-19 has not gone away and cases of COVID-19 are increasing among children, getting vaccinated provides the best protection for both the child and their family. Eligible children will need two doses of the vaccine usually eight weeks apart to get longer-lasting protection. If your child has tested positive for COVID-19, you should wait 4 weeks from the test for your child to have their first or second vaccine.
“If you have not yet received a GP letter inviting you to book, please go ahead and book online now at one of the Trust vaccination hubs.
"When you attend the vaccine centre you should bring some form of written evidence that your child is in one of the clinical risk groups. This might include a paediatrician hospital letter that mentions your child’s illness, a GP letter or a prescription of long term medications that you child is taking. If you have no evidence at home and still feel your child is in an at risk group you should discuss with you GP and / or paediatrician who will be able to provide a standard letter.”
For further information for parents on the COVID-19 vaccine for eligible five to 11 year olds see: www.publichealth.hscni.net/publications/covid-19-vaccination-guide-parents-children-aged-5-11-years-high-risk
Or to find out where your nearest COVID-19 vaccine clinic is see: vaccinations.covid-19.hscni.net/location-search
This part of the COVID-19 vaccination programme will begin immediately.
Children at serious risk from the complications of COVID-19 infection include those:
- with severe neurodisabilities
- with immunosuppression* – those whose immune systems don’t work as well
- who have profound and multiple or severe learning disabilities
- on the learning disability register
- who live with Down’s syndrome
- with long term serious conditions affecting their body.
The vaccine is also recommended for those children living with people who have a weakened immune system (immunosuppressed). This is to reduce the risk of them passing on the infection to their family members.