image source, Getty/Roberto Jimenez Mejiasimage captionMost children are expected to receive their jab in schoolYoung people aged 12 to 15 years old i
Young people aged 12 to 15 years old in Northern Ireland are to be offered a first dose of a Covid-19 jab shortly, the Department of Health has said.
It follows unanimous advice to ministers from the UK’s four chief medical officers.
There are approximately 98,000 12 to 15 year olds in Northern Ireland.
They will be offered one dose of the Pfizer/BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine with parental consent sought prior to vaccination.
Health Minister Robin Swann said the move will help to protect young people from catching the virus.
Schools-based vaccination programme
Those who are part of an “at risk” group will receive two doses, eight weeks apart, in line with advice from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI).
Most school-aged children aged 12 to 15 are expected to primarily receive their Covid-19 vaccination in school.
A schools-based vaccination programme is the model used for vaccinations including for HPV and the annual flu programme.
They will be supported by GPs where necessary.
Consent forms for vaccination will begin to be distributed via schools shortly, the department said.
There will be alternative provision for those who are home-schooled or in secure services.
The health minister said he has “carefully considered” advice provided by the four UK chief medical officers and has accepted their recommendation to expand the vaccination programme to 12 to 15 year olds.
“This move will help protect young people from catching Covid-19 and is expected to prevent disruption in schools by reducing transmission,” he said.
Mr Swann said Northern Ireland’s healthcare system “stands ready” to extend vaccinations to the age group “with the same dedication and urgency that they have delivered all other parts of the vaccination programme”.