Q&A: What do I need to know about vaccinating my child?

Many parents will have questions and concerns when it comes to the health and wellbeing of their children. Here we answer questions you may have about the Covid-19 vaccine and children.
Q&A: What do I need to know about vaccinating my child?

Over 20% of Covid cases in recent weeks have been in teenagers.

The Covid-19 vaccine rollout is to be extended to children aged 12 and up following advice from the National Immunisation Advisory Council (Niac).

It is understood vaccination of this age cohort, which includes around 269,000 people, could begin as early as next week.

Chief Medical Officer, Dr Tony Holohan, welcomed the development and encouraged parents and guardians to register them for a vaccination as soon as it is possible to do so.

Many parents will have questions and concerns when it comes to the health and wellbeing of their children. 

Here we answer questions you may have about the Covid-19 vaccine and children.

Which vaccines have been approved for this age group?

The European Medicines Agency approved the Moderna vaccine for use in children aged 12-17.
The European Medicines Agency approved the Moderna vaccine for use in children aged 12-17.

The European Medicines Agency (EMA) approved the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for children aged between 12 and 15 years on May 28. It had already been approved for use in adults and adolescents aged 16 and above.

The EMA’s human medicines committee (CHMP) went on to approve the Moderna vaccine for use in children aged 12-17 on July 23. This vaccine was already approved for use in people over the age of 18.

Clinical trials estimate the efficacy of both vaccines as 100% in these age groups.

The two messenger RNA (mRNA) vaccines involved two doses delivered three to four weeks apart.

Is there a risk of side effects for my child?

Common side effects from the mRNA vaccines include tiredness, headache and muscle/joint pain.
Common side effects from the mRNA vaccines include tiredness, headache and muscle/joint pain.

The most common side effects in children of the Pfizer vaccine among this age group was found to be similar to those in adults. They include pain at the injection site, tiredness, headache, muscle and joint pain, chills and fever. These effects are usually mild or moderate and improve within a few days from the vaccination.

Similar side effects were found with the Moderna jab with the additional inclusion of nausea, vomiting and enlarged lymph nodes.

Where both vaccines are concerned the CHMP noted that due to the limited number of children included in the study, the trial could not have detected rare side effects.

However, it was determined that the benefits outweighed the risks for both.

What kind of risk does Covid-19 present to my child?

A major concern in relation to young people getting the virus is the potential of long Covid.
A major concern in relation to young people getting the virus is the potential of long Covid.

People of all ages can catch the coronavirus. Data to date shows few deaths in people under the age of 18 and the dose is usually mild.

However, cases of critical illness have been reported.

As the vaccine rollout in Ireland has progressed and the Delta variant has spread, the average age of those contracting the virus has lowered.

Over 20% of Covid cases in recent weeks have been in teenagers.

A major concern in relation to young people getting the virus is the potential for long Covid. These long-term effects of which may include fatigue, respiratory symptoms, and neurological symptoms.

Why has the Government decided to vaccinate children over 12 years?

Health officials have said that in order to reach herd immunity, children will need to be vaccinated. Picture: Larry Cummins
Health officials have said that in order to reach herd immunity, children will need to be vaccinated. Picture: Larry Cummins

While most children are at low risk of serious disease, vaccinating them is about reducing transmission as well as protecting the child.

Adolescents can transmit the virus even if they have mild or no symptoms the same way adults can.

Health officials have said that in order to reach herd immunity, children will need to be vaccinated.

How will the rollout among this cohort go?

Health Minister Stephen Donnelly said it is likely there will be a role for GPs in the rollout. Picture: Damien Storan.
Health Minister Stephen Donnelly said it is likely there will be a role for GPs in the rollout. Picture: Damien Storan.

Detailed plans for registering this age group have not yet been given and there is no official starting date.

If the online registration system is to be used, it is likely changes will be made to the portal as parental consent is required for those under 16 years. Children and adolescents will also need to be accompanied to their vaccine appointments.

Health Minister Stephen Donnelly said it is likely there will be a role for GPs in the rollout.

It is likely the registration will proceed in descending age order just as has been the case with other age cohorts.

However, Mr Donnelly has said those with underlying health conditions will be prioritised.

I still have concerns, what should I do?

People are advised to only seek out information from trusted sources including hse.ie and gov.ie
People are advised to only seek out information from trusted sources including hse.ie and gov.ie

If you still have concerns and questions you would like to ask, people are advised to only seek out information from trusted sources including hse.ie and gov.ie.

GPs and healthcare professionals will also be able to answer any questions you may have.

The public have been advised not to rely on social media and hearsay when it comes to important medical information.

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