People aged 12-15 in Northern Ireland will be offered a first dose of Covid-19 vaccine shortly.
This move follows the unanimous advice to ministers from the four UK Chief Medical Officers.
Health Minister Robin Swann said: “I have carefully considered the advice provided by the four UK Chief Medical Officers and have accepted their recommendation to expand the vaccination programme to all those aged 12-15.
“This move will help protect young people from catching COVID-19 and is expected to prevent disruption in schools by reducing transmission.”
In line with the recommendation of the independent Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), the government sought the views of the four UK CMOs on the wider issues that are relevant to the health of children.
All those aged 12 to 15 in Northern Ireland will now be offered one dose of the Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine and parental consent will be sought prior to vaccination.
For those who are part of an ‘at risk’ group, they will receive two doses, eight weeks apart, in line with JCVI advice.
The government has accepted the advice of the four UK CMOs and the HSC is preparing to deliver the programme which is expected to be a schools-based vaccination programme, which is the successful 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.
Most school-aged children aged 12 to 15 are expected to will primarily receive their COVID-19 vaccination in their school with alternative provision for those who are home schooled or in secure services.
The Minister concluded: “I thank the UK Chief Medical Officers for their expert advice. Our healthcare system stands ready to extend the vaccination programme to this group with the same dedication and urgency that they have delivered all other parts of the vaccination programme.”