HSE plans to mobilise roll out of Covid-19 vaccine for children aged 5 to 11, but first jabs not expected until end of December

The HSE said it plans to mobilise the roll out of the Covid-19 vaccine for children aged five to 11 and but expects the first doses will not arrive until the end of December.

round 480,000 children will be eligible.

HSE chief Paul Reid was speaking after the vaccine was given approval for the age group by the European Medicines Agency (EMA).

The HSE intends to hold focus groups with parents to discuss their attitude to the vaccine and find out what concerns they might have.

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It must first be given the green light for use here by the National Immunisation Advisory Committee (Niac).

“We will mobilise and plan a vaccination programme,” he said.

Damien McCallion, who oversees vaccination roll out, said the HSE will be taking from the experience of the United States and other countries where it has been rolled out.

Asked about the high levels of infection among primary school children Dr Colm Henry, HSE chief clinical offer said that for the greater part they pick up the virus from households and not school.

“There are some instances of children getting it as school but since September as the spread of infection increased in older age groups they were infected in houses.

“Fortunately it’s an age group in which serious illness is quite rare,” he said.

The HSE briefing was told today that the number of Covid-19 patients in hospital has dipped below 600 and now stands at 598 with 126 in intensive care. Another 300 are getting advanced breathing support in other wards.

Mr Reid said the Covid-19 hospital numbers were a “slight come down, which is welcomed, but still extremely high”.

There are 5,800 healthcare workers out because of Covid-19 – the highest since January putting another strain on services.

Mr Reid said the aim is to increase the number of booster vaccines administered to around 270,000 people a week.

It is working to increase the number of staff involved in delivering the vaccines.

Some centres will offer limited walk-in appointments to healthcare workers and people in their sixties who are eligible – having been fully vaccinated for at least five months .

People should check the HSE website for the location and times when walk ins without an appointment are allowed.

Mr McCallion said 85pc of the over-80s have had a booster shot, 60pc of the 70-79 year olds and 10pc of people in their 60s.

Some 84pc of people in nursing homes over 60 have had a booster and 51pc of healthcare workers.

Among the people with very weakened immune system coverage is at 74pc.

They will be begin to offer vaccines to people with underlying conditions from next week.

Commenting on the pressures on the Covid-19 testing system – which has led delays for people trying to book online – Mr McCallion said there were almost one million tests carried out the last six or seven weeks

“I do acknowledge there are people having to wait for tests and it’s an anxious time having to do,” he said.

He again appealed to people with symptoms to self isolate and seek a test.

He said more staff are being redeployed to take swabs and the Defence Forces are also involved.

It is planned to open more clinics in the Midlands and the east of the country as well as step up mobile units.

Some 97pc of people referred for tests by the GPs or people who are close contacts get a test on the day or next day, he added.

Private companies in Dublin, Cork and Shannon airports are providing 3,000 tests a day for the HSE.

HSE chief operations officer, Ann O Connor, said there has been a fall in patients attending emergency departments.

Some people are “voting with their feet” and not presenting due to the Covid crisis.

It means there are also fewer people waiting for a bed on trolleys.

However, 263 waiting list patients had their procedures cancelled between November 14 and 21, she said.

This does not reflect the true scale of patients being put on hold because hospitals would also have opted not to book people in because of the lack of intensive care beds.

She said when this phase of the crisis passes waiting list more patients will be on lists and waiting longer.

Visit our Covid-19 vaccine dashboard for updates on the roll out of the vaccination program and the rate of Coronavirus cases Ireland

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