Vaccinating teenagers will have a "huge impact" on the return to school in late August and early September, a member of NPHET says.
Dr Mary Favier says it's a "very welcome development" that the vaccine rollout is being extended to everyone aged 12-15, and says high-risk teenagers are likely to be prioritised.
The Government yesterday signed off on NIAC's advice to extend vaccination to the age group, with vaccinations now expected to begin as early as next week.
That means many teenagers will have had at least one dose by the time the new school year begins.
Dr Favier - COVID-19 adviser for the Irish College of GPs and a member of NPHET - told Newstalk Breakfast that will make a huge difference.
She said: “One-in-five cases of COVID at the moment are in this age group.
"As GPs, we know how significant [lockdown] was - all the school closures, the impact on mental health, the impact on children’s education.
“[Vaccination] will help children stay at school. It’s entirely reasonable that parents would have questions - there will be fact sheets produced; the HSE will have a lot of detailed information on its website; and GPs will be able to answer these questions if they’re asked."
She said the decision on whether to vaccinate children will be up to each parent, and it's reasonable for them to be "concerned, interested, curious and asking lots of questions".
However, she said doctors know how beneficial and effective the vaccines are - noting that vaccinating teenagers will protect not just the individuals, but the rest of society as well.
Dr Favier also said vulnerable teenagers are likely to be prioritised when vaccines are rolled out.
She said: “We’d expect children to be called probably starting next week, through the mass vaccination teenagers - likely prioritising those at high risk, who are immunocompromised or have other illnesses, or who have people in their homes who are like that.
“The enthusiasm out there for vaccination is high - there have been parents worried for a very long time about high-risk children, so it would be entirely appropriate they’d be prioritised for vaccination. But it will be all children aged 12-15 [vaccinated]."
Teenagers will be vaccinated with either the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines, as they're the only two jabs to have been given the EMA green light for use in 12-15-year-olds so far.