29 May 2022

Young teenagers to be offered Covid-19 booster vaccine in updated rollout plan

Young teenagers to be offered Covid-19 booster vaccine in updated rollout plan

Young teenagers to be offered Covid-19 booster vaccine in updated rollout plan

Children aged between 12 and 15 will now be able to register for a Covid-19 booster vaccine under new plans for Ireland's vaccination programme.

The Minister for Health, Stephen Donnelly TD, has accepted the new recommendations made by the National Immunisation Advisory Committee (NIAC) to the Chief Medical Officer (CMO), who has also endorsed these recommendations.

NIAC has recommended that a booster dose of Covid-19 vaccine be offered to all children and young people aged 12-15 years.

A booster dose of the mRNA vaccine Comirnaty, the vaccine manufactured by Pfizer/BioNTech, will be given at an interval of six months or longer since completion of the primary vaccine series, NIAC has said.

For those children and young people aged 12 – 15 years who have experienced a breakthrough infection, the booster dose will be deferred for at least six months following the onset of infection.

Minister Donnelly said: “In adults, a booster dose with an mRNA vaccine significantly improves protection against severe outcomes, symptomatic diseases and infection from the Omicron variant of COVID-19. NIAC have indicated that vaccine efficacy against symptomatic infection and hospitalisation was restored to 60-75% and 90% respectively, two to four weeks after administration of a booster in the adult population.

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"Evidence from Israel’s booster programme shows a significant reduction in the confirmed rate of infection in children and young people aged 12-15 years following the booster dose compared to those of the same age who were vaccinated with the primary series five to six months earlier.

“The benefits of vaccination – the prevention of serious illness and death are clear, however, the reduction in rate of infection is important as Ireland removes some of the last public health restrictions in place. 

"COVID-19 vaccines continue to prove remarkably effective and so it is really important that anyone yet to receive any course of COVID-19 vaccine does so as soon as possible, including those aged 5 – 11 years who are eligible to receive a Pfizer vaccine.

“The evidence also shows that those who have been boosted are less susceptible to infection and, if infected, are less infectious to others, compared with those who have not been boosted. If you are yet to receive your booster, please do so as soon as possible – it will protect you and those around you.”

While primary vaccination with mRNA vaccines has been authorised by the European Medicines Agency for this age group, no such authorisation exists in respect of a booster dose. An application to authorise Comirnaty as a booster for adolescents from 12 years of age is currently being assessed by the EMA. 

In the context of such off-label use, the Department of Health and the HSE will ensure that special attention is paid to the provision of support and guidance information as part of the informed consent process for children and young people and their parents/guardians.

The Department of Health and the HSE will now work to put these recommendations into effect.

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