The Pfizer coronavirus vaccination is to be offered to children over the age of 12 at risk of serious illness if they contract the virus.
It comes after the independent Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) ruled out mass vaccination of healthy children for now.
JCVI updated its advice to enable 12 to 15-year-olds with specific underlying health conditions to receive vaccination.
This currently includes those with severe neuro-disabilities, Down’s Syndrome, underlying conditions resulting in immunosuppression, and those with profound and multiple learning disabilities, severe learning disabilities or who are on the learning disability register.
Children and young people aged 12 years and over who live with someone who is immunosuppressed will be offered the opportunity to receive a vaccination as well as those within three months of their 18th birthday.
The JCVI has also advised young people aged 16 to 17 years of age who are at higher risk of serious illness should continue to be offered Covid-19 vaccination.
Parent or guardian consent will be required ahead of vaccination.
Health Minister Robin Swann said vaccines play an important role in protecting people of all ages.
“Our vaccination programme has always been guided by the expert advice. The decision by the medicines regulator to approve the Pfizer vaccine for use in this younger age group has only been taken after rigorous assessment of both safety and effectiveness,” he said.
“Today’s subsequent announcement by the JCVI underlines the important role that the Covid-19 vaccines play in protecting people of all ages – especially those most at risk from this virus.”
Chief medical officer Sir Michael McBride added: “In taking this decision, the JCVI has carefully examined the risk of Covid-19 to children and young people against the potential benefits of vaccination.
“While the evidence strongly indicates that almost all children and young people are at very low risk from Covid-19, a small number of children and young people with underlying chronic conditions are at increased risk and will benefit from the protection offered by vaccination.”