HSE plans Pfizer jabs for 12 to 15-year-olds

Approval expected this week with vaccine 100pc effective in preventing Covid-19
Maeve Sheehan

Health authorities are examining the roll-out of the Covid-19 vaccine to teenagers, with a decision yet to be made on whether it should be administered before they return to school.

The National Immunisation Advis- ory Body (Niac) is expected to approve a jab for 12 to 15-year-olds as soon as this week, according to sources close to the programme.

The European Medicines Agency approved the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine for use on 12 to15-year-olds at the end of last month.

It is the first vaccine approved for use on adolescents and is expected to be the one that will be offered to Irish children.

It was already approved for use on 16 to 18-year-olds, and medically vulnerable teenagers in this age group are already included in the existing roll-out.

A spokesperson for the HSE said yesterday that Niac has conducted “horizon scanning” on administering the vaccine more widely to adolescents.

No decision has been taken on the model that will be used to roll it out, which is subject to the vaccine being approved by NIAC.

One option under consideration is whether to roll out the vaccine as part of the existing programme operated by the HSE’s experienced school vaccination teams.

However, the social distancing required could present a challenge for some schools.

Other options include administering inoculations to teenagers through existing vaccination centres or, thirdly, through GPs and pharmacists.

A combination of all three options could also be used.

A further factor impinging on vaccinating younger people is supply, with shortfalls continuing to slow down the roll-out.

The HSE will no longer use the AstraZeneca vaccine once those awaiting their second dose have had their jabs.

The expected supplies of 600,000 doses of Johnson & Johnson vaccine — once heralded as a game-changer — have been hit by a production problems.

This leaves the HSE with the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines to complete the vaccinations of most of the population.

To date, an estimated three million Covid-19 vaccine doses have been administered.

Around two million people have received one dose and one million are fully vaccinated.

Clinical trials suggested the vaccine is 100pc effective in preventing Covid-19 in the 12 to 15 years age group.

The British government is planning to start administering the vaccine to 12 to 15-year-olds over the summer.

There are concerns that a large proportion of children are contracting the Covid-19 in a country where the more transmissible Delta variant is now the dominant strain.

Data in the UK showed the variant has spread rapidly within schools in England.

There have been 149 outbreaks linked to it since April 26, with 136 over the four weeks up to June 6. Figures also showed students in years seven to 11 in secondary schools had the highest infection rate of any age group.

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