A Covid-19 vaccine will be offered to some children and young people aged 12 years and over with specific underlying health conditions that put them at risk of Covid-19 infection.
Following approval by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) for the Pfizer/BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine to be used in those aged 12 and over, the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) has now updated its advice to enable 12- to 15-year-olds with specific underlying health conditions to receive the vaccination.
This currently includes those with severe neuro-disabilities, Down’s syndrome, underlying conditions resulting in immunosuppression, and those with profound and multiple learning disabilities, severe learning disabilities or who are on the Learning Disability Register.
Additionally, children and young people aged 12 years and over who live with someone who is immunosuppressed will be offered the opportunity to receive a Covid-19 vaccination.
This is on the understanding that the main benefits from vaccination are related to the potential for indirect protection of their household contact who is immunosuppressed.
Vaccination will also be offered to those young people who are within three months of their 18th birthday.
The JCVI has also advised young people aged 16 to 17 who are at higher risk of Covid-19 infection should continue to be offered Covid-19 vaccination.
Health Minister Robin Swann said: "Our vaccination programme has always been guided by the expert advice. The decision by the medicines regulator to approve the Pfizer vaccine for use in this younger age group has only been taken after rigorous assessment of both safety and effectiveness.
“This subsequent announcement by the JCVI underlines the important role that the Covid-19 vaccines play in protecting people of all ages – especially those most at risk from this virus.”
Minister Swann added: “The success of our vaccination programme in Northern Ireland has undoubtedly protected many people from serious illness and saved lives.”
Chief Medical Officer, Professor Sir Michael McBride, said: “In taking this decision, the JCVI has carefully examined the risk of Covid-19 to children and young people against the potential benefits of vaccination.
“While the evidence strongly indicates that almost all children and young people are at very low risk from Covid-19, a small number of children and young people with underlying chronic conditions are at increased risk, and will benefit from the protection offered by vaccination.”
Until more data become available, JCVI does not currently advise routine universal vaccination of children and young people less than 18 years of age.
“JCVI will keep this advice under review as more safety and effectiveness information become available on the use of Covid-19 vaccines in children and young people,” said Prof. Sir McBride.
More details on booking a vaccination appointment will be made available soon. Parent or guardian consent will be required ahead of vaccination.