Opening of online booking for 5-11 year olds, just over a fifth having received the Covid vaccine

THE HSE has renewed its call for parents to register children aged 5-11 for a Covid-19 vaccine as it opens up online booking of vaccines to this age group.

According to latest government figuresonly 108,000 children aged 5-11 have received at least one dose and 55,400 are fully immunized, out of a total of 480,000 children in this age group in Ireland.

Dr Lucy Jessop, director of public health at the HSE National Immunization Office, said The newspaper that early adopters are signing up quickly and there are parents signing up their kids every day, but it’s slowed down.

“We know from research that parents wanted to take their time to think about it,” she said.

“We launched a campaign before Christmas to remind parents to consider vaccinating their children, but we know that, particularly around Christmas and New Years, many children in this age group had Covid.”

Dr Jessop said some parents might be confused about their children’s vaccination schedule if they had Covid over the Christmas period.

“If they’ve had Covid, they only have to wait four weeks to get their first dose,” she explained.

“We’re a bit concerned that people think it’s three months – it’s only three months for recalls. Even if you catch Covid between the first and second dose, there is only a four week wait to get the second dose.

Dr Jessop said positive evidence regarding the safety of the vaccine for children of this age continued to be presented internationally.

“It has been widely used in this age group in the US and other European countries, the UK has also just announced that it will offer the vaccine to children,” she said.

“In terms of US data, nine million doses [in this age cohort] were given and these very rare side effects of myocarditis and pericarditis are actually reported less in this age group than in adolescents and adolescents,” she said.

Dr Jessop said data from Ireland also indicates that the main side effects experienced by children after vaccination are at the milder end of the scale.

Since February 8, the Health Products Regulatory Authority (HPRA) had received 346 reports of suspected side effects following vaccination in people aged 5 to 17 years, of which 54 concerned a child while the others concerned adolescents.

Overall, the HPRA said the reports received were consistent with the types of reports received for adults, with most being mild to moderate in nature.

The most commonly reported are dizziness or fainting, headache, fever, nausea or vomiting, and fatigue. Of the reports received containing outcome information, many of the suspected side effects had cleared or were clearing at the time of reporting.

Dr Jessop said while the risk of serious illness with Covid-19 infection is low for children in this age group, there are children who “are hospitalized and have serious complications” from the disease.

“There can be serious consequences, whether it’s multi-system inflammatory disease or long Covid – we still see children presenting with this,” she said. “In addition to reducing the risk of them becoming seriously ill, by getting vaccinated, they also protect other family members.

For me, as a parent, my children have been vaccinated and if we ease restrictions, I want to know that my children are as protected as possible. In terms of lifting restrictions, rather than thinking that means Covid is going away, it’s even more of a reason to vaccinate your children to give them the best protection.

How to register

Parents or legal guardians of a child between the ages of 5 and 11 can Register their child using the HSE Online Portal or by calling the Covid-19 helpline on 1800 700 700.

To register online, you need:

  • a mobile phone number – if you are registering a child, use your number
  • an email address – if you are registering a child, use your email
  • the child’s PPS number
  • Postal code
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Until recently, those who registered received an SMS with the child’s vaccination appointment three to seven days before the appointment.

The HSE is changing the system to allow parents to book a convenient time and date for the appointment through the online portal.

“This will give parents the flexibility to bring their child in for the vaccine at a time that is convenient for them,” Dr Jessop said.

“We appreciate keeping parents and guardians busy and want to help make it as accessible as possible.”

The HSE has advised parents to ensure they book the correct clinic for the age group of their children as there are different clinics for those over 12.

If possible, the parent or legal guardian of the child should accompany their child to the appointment, but if they have already given their consent online in advance, they can ask another adult to bring the child to the appointment. Children cannot come to their appointment alone.

Covid-19 vaccinations for children in this age group are given at vaccination centers and parents are advised to bring identification with the child’s date of birth, if possible.

All children in this age group will receive Pfizer’s mRNA vaccine, but they will receive a lower dose than adults.

Children should wear something on their upper arm that will make it easier to get the vaccine and should eat before they arrive as there may be a wait at the vaccination centre.

For children with additional needs, parents can call HSE Live ahead of time on 1800 700 700 to ensure their child has more time at their appointment or a quieter appointment with fewer people at the center.

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