Children aged 12-15 in Northern Ireland are to be offered a first dose of a Covid-19 vaccine, Health Minister Robin Swann has announced.

Mr Swann said the children will be offered one dose of the Pfizer/BioNTech jab, primarily through a school-based vaccination programme.

The minister's decision comes after the UK's four chief medical officers recommended the move.

"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," he said.

"This move will help protect young people from catching Covid-19 and is expected to prevent disruption in schools by reducing transmission."

Mr Swann said parental consent will be sought prior to vaccination, and the necessary forms will be distributed via schools shortly.

He said the school inoculation programme will be supported by GPs where necessary.


Latest coronavirus stories


The minister said that, while the majority of jabs will be delivered in schools, there will be alternative arrangements for those who are home-schooled or in secure services.

Mr Swann said children in "at risk" groups will receive two doses of vaccine, eight weeks apart.

"I thank the UK chief medical officers for their expert advice," he said.

"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."

An announcement on whether Northern Ireland will offer booster jabs for over-50s is expected later today.

Separately, the Department of Health has reported 1,590 new cases of Covid-19 in Northern Ireland and seven further deaths in the past 24 hours.