With registration for Covid-19 vaccinations for 12 to 15 year-olds due to open soon, the HSE has issued guidance for parents and guardians.
The organisation is advising that children aged 12 to 15 years old should get a Covid-19 vaccine when it is offered to them. This could be as soon as next week, with a strong suggestion that registration could open on August 8.
According to the information on the HSE website: “Getting vaccinated is particularly important if your child is aged 12 to 15 and has a health condition that puts them at higher risk of severe illness from Covid-19, or lives with someone who is at higher risk of Covid-19.”
It is acknowledged that getting a child vaccinated is a personal decision and some parents or guardians may decide to wait.
The HSE has provided the following information for parents who are undecided:
Benefits of getting a Covid-19 vaccine
Covid-19 vaccines will protect your child from getting very unwell from Covid-19 if they have an existing health condition.
It will also protect healthy 12 to 15 years old from:
-mild to severe illness from Covid-19
-multisystem inflammatory syndrome due to Covid-19
-the risk of developing ‘long Covid' symptoms, such as tiredness and fatigue
-spreading Covid-19 to others
Children who are vaccinated will be less likely to miss school and other activities because of Covid-19.
Covid-19 and children aged 12 to 15
According to the HSE: “Most children aged 12 to 15 who get Covid-19 have very mild symptoms or no symptoms at all. They are very unlikely to get very unwell due to the virus.
“But children who get Covid-19 need to isolate from other people even if their symptoms are mild. This is to stop the spread of the virus. They need to stay at home for at least ten days from when they develop symptoms or test positive.”
The HSE advises that it is very rare that Covid-19 causes serious illness, hospitalisation or death in children. Only one in 100,000 children who get Covid-19 have to go to hospital. The risk of needing intensive care treatment is very low.
However, children with certain health conditions are at higher risk of severe illness. They are more likely to have to go to hospital with Covid-19.
The virus can also cause a condition called multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children (MIS-C). But this happens extremely rarely.
MIS-C is also known as paediatric inflammatory multisystem syndrome (PIMS). It causes pneumonia, inflammation of the heart and difficulty breathing. It can be fatal.
The risk of long-lasting side effects from Covid-19 in children is unknown. This is sometimes called 'long Covid.'
Are vaccines safe?
The HSE has stressed that thousands of people worldwide, including children aged 12 to 15, have been vaccinated against Covid-19. The vaccines were tested on children during clinical trials. There have been no concerns reported about the safety of Covid-19 vaccines for children aged 12 to 15.
The vaccines being offered to children in Ireland aged 12 to 15 are the Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna Covid-19 vaccines.
Both vaccines are approved by the European Medicines Agency (EMA) as safe and effective. They are recommended in Ireland by the National Immunisation Advisory Committee (NIAC).
The HSE says that a vaccine is not recommended if a child:
-has had a severe allergic reaction (anaphylaxis) in the past, including to any other vaccine or medication
-has had a severe allergic reaction to any of the ingredients in the Moderna or the Pfizer/BioNTech Covid-19 vaccines (including polyethylene glycol or PEG)
-has been told by a doctor that they should not have the Moderna or the Pfizer/BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine
-has had myocarditis or pericarditis after a previous dose of either vaccine
You may decide to wait until more information is available about Covid-19 vaccines in children and young people before bringing them to get a vaccine.
The HSE advises that there is a greater risk of a child getting Covid-19 if they are not vaccinated. Their symptoms will most likely be mild if they get the virus, but they will still need to self-isolate. This means they may miss school and other activities.
Parents and guardians are reminded to take extra care to protect their children if they choose not to get them vaccinated. They are advised to avoid situations where a child could pick up the virus and to remember to follow the advice for:
-washing their hands properly
Side effects in children aged 12 to 15
The HSE says that like all medicines, vaccines can cause side effects. Most of these are mild or moderate in children and do not last long. Common side effects include a sore arm, fever or tiredness.
Very rarely some children aged 12 or over develop inflammation of the heart (myocarditis) and the outer lining of the heart (pericarditis).
These serious side effects are very rare. The risk of myocarditis is higher in boys. Data from the United States estimates that the risk of myocarditis in boys aged 12 to 17 is about 1 in 16,000. In girls of the same age, the risk is 1 in 100,000.
These conditions are more likely to happen after the second dose of the vaccine. Most people recover from myocarditis and pericarditis but they may need treatment in hospital. It is not yet known if there are any long-term problems because of these side effects.
If your child has had Covid-19
If your child has had Covid-19, they can be vaccinated from four weeks after their positive Covid-19 test.
If they had the virus in the last nine months they will have some immunity to the virus. But getting the vaccine will reduce the risk of them getting Covid-19 again.
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