News story | Date: 14/01/2022 | Ministry of Health and Care Services
A vaccine will be offered to children aged 5–11 if so requested by their parents or guardians. This vaccination is provided on a voluntary basis, and there is no general recommendation to vaccinate all children in this age group.
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‘Children rarely become seriously ill, and knowledge is still limited about rare side effects or side effects that may arise at a distant time. There is little individual benefit for most children, and the Norwegian Institute of Public Health has not recommended that all children aged 5–11 be vaccinated. However, it has agreed that all parents and guardians may be offered a vaccine for their children; this will be most relevant to only a few groups of children,’ says Minister of Health and Care Services Ingvild Kjerkol.
The vaccine may be particularly relevant for children with chronic illnesses, families whose children have close contact with people with a special need for protection, and children with increased risk because they will be spending time in countries with a higher infection rate or poorer access to health services. It may also be relevant for children whose lives are particularly vulnerable for other reasons.
‘We are following the recommendation of the Norwegian Institute of Public Health, and children will be offered free vaccination if their parents or guardians request it,’ states Ms Kjerkol.
Adolescents aged 12–15
The Norwegian Institute of Public Health recommends that adolescents aged 12–15 be offered a second vaccine dose. However, it is not making a general recommendation to get vaccinated, as the greatest benefit has already been achieved by taking the first dose, and a second dose entails a slightly elevated risk of myocarditis. At present, our knowledge remains limited about other rare side effects. The vaccine will nonetheless be offered to those who wish to take it.
‘The Norwegian Government follows the recommendation of the Norwegian Institute of Public Health regarding vaccination of children and adolescents. The vaccines are voluntary, and parents must decide whether they want to vaccinate their children. We also agree with the Norwegian Institute of Public Health that municipalities should be cautious about organising vaccination at schools, as this may be seen as a strong wish on the part of the authorities for them to get vaccinated, and may be felt to be less voluntary,’ says Ms Kjerkol.
Assessment and recommendation of the Norwegian Institute of Public Health
Children and adolescents are at very low risk of becoming seriously ill with COVID-19. The illness rarely results in children being admitted to hospital, and the average period of hospitalisation is one (1) day. The Norwegian Institute of Public Health has reason to believe that the vaccine's effectiveness against symptomatic illness with the Omicron variant is considerably reduced, compared with past virus variants, but that it remains effective in preventing serious illness. There is limited knowledge about the side effects for the age group 5–11, which calls for caution to be exercised in terms of choosing vaccination.
The Norwegian Institute of Public Health therefore does not want to make a general recommendation to vaccinate all children, but believes that both the first and second doses for children and adolescents may reduce the risk of illness among some children.