Parents who choose not to vaccinate their young children against Covid-19 have been told they are at greater risk of missing school and other activities by contracting the virus.
The warning is part of a public information campaign launched on Tuesday, designed to answer the many questions parents and guardians may have before making a decision.
“Registration for the vaccine will open shortly,” the HSE said on Tuesday, launching the information campaign, “with priority given to children most at risk of Covid-19”.
The HSE, via an online information page, says: “If you decide not to have your child vaccinated there is a greater risk of them contracting Covid-19.
“Their symptoms will most likely be mild if they catch the virus, but they will still need to isolate themselves from others. This means they may miss school and other activities.
Children aged 5 to 11 will be offered a lower dose of Pfizer BioNTech, known as Comirnaty, and will need two doses, three weeks apart. The HSE said that despite the smaller amount, immunity will be similar to the higher dose vaccine used in older age groups.
mRNA vaccines teach the body to make a protein that triggers an immune response without using the live virus that causes Covid-19. The body can then produce antibodies to help fight the infection if the virus enters the system.
According to the information campaign, thousands of people have been vaccinated in clinical trials around the world and “no new safety issues have been reported in children aged 5 to 15 years”.
This vaccine has been given to millions of children aged 5 to 15 in the United States, Canada and Israel and is recommended in other European countries.
“Very rarely, people can develop myocarditis and pericarditis after receiving the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine. Myocarditis and pericarditis are inflammatory heart conditions. The risk of these very rare conditions is higher in younger men,” the HSE’s dedicated webpage says.
“Early data from other countries show that myocarditis is less likely in 12-15 year olds than in 16-24 year olds. Data on children aged 5-11 is very limited so far.
As has been well established, the majority of children who contract Covid-19 have very mild or no symptoms. However, they are required to isolate themselves from other people to avoid spreading it.
Other benefits of the vaccine, medical experts say, are that it can help prevent a child from developing long-lasting Covid symptoms such as fatigue, which can last for weeks or months.
In rare cases, the virus has caused a condition called multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children (MIS-C), also known as pediatric multisystem inflammatory syndrome (PIMS). This causes pneumonia, inflammation of the heart, breathing difficulties and can prove fatal in some cases. Most of the reported cases have been recorded in boys aged 1-14 years.
Dr Lucy Jessop, director of the National Immunization Office (NIO), acknowledged that parents would have concerns and questions.
“We also know they want information from a trusted source like the HSE, their GP or other healthcare professionals,” she said.
On Tuesday, Minister for Children Roderic O’Gorman announced the establishment from December 15 of an antigen testing program to respond to Covid-19 cases in wake-up and childcare services. .
Under the scheme, antigen testing will be available for children aged four and over and staff in a pod where there is a confirmed case of Covid-19.
Meanwhile, the Department for Education has said there are no plans to close schools before the Christmas holidays.
Some health experts and school principals have suggested an early closure could limit the spread of Covid-19.
However, a department spokesperson said the scheduling of school vacation periods should not change.
“There are no plans to change the school holidays at Christmas. There is no evidence to suggest that extending school vacations has a public health rationale,” a department spokesperson said.
Primary and secondary schools must close for the Christmas holidays on Wednesday December 22 and reopen on Thursday January 6.
Christine Loscher, professor of immunology at the University of Dublin, said closing schools this Friday would reduce children’s exposure to the virus, particularly in light of the highly transmissible variant of Omicron.
“It will give a decent circuit breaker and ensure that we can open schools in January,” she said.
Denmark announced last week that it was closing schools earlier due to the threat posed by the Omicron variant, while the UK government said it would only close schools earlier in an “emergency”. absolute public health”.
Some principals here say they expect many parents to choose to keep their children home next week for safety reasons.
Matt Melvin, headmaster of St Etchen’s National School in Kinnegad, Co Westmeath, said his school was holding its Christmas events this week in case they were advised to close early.
“We are preparing, just in case,” he said. “Whatever decision is made must be in the best interests of public health and children, but it must be made quickly.”