The decision to approve Pfizer BioNTech to the younger age groups is a regulatory decision only and no decisions have been made on whether children under the age of 18 will be vaccinated routinely.
The Minister said: “The news today that Pfizer/BioNTech has been approved down to the age of 12 is welcome news and a further indicator of how vaccines are crucial in the fight against Covid-19.
“It is almost six months to the day since we vaccinated the first person in Northern Ireland, Nurse Joanna Sloan. In a short six months, we have delivered the vaccination programme to over a million people.
“This has only been made possible by the monumental effort of the staff and volunteers delivering the programme and I thank each and every one. We should never underestimate what we can achieve if we work together.”
The current JCVI guidelines has approved the vaccine for routine use in those aged 18 and over, as well as individuals aged 16 or 17 years with some underlying health conditions. Any decision on vaccinating children will be informed by advice from JCVI and other experts.
Chief Medical Officer, Dr Michael McBride, also welcomed the news. He said: “Our vaccination programme is now open to those aged 18 and over and there is no doubt it is improving life as we know it. The news that Pfizer BioNTech has been given regulatory approval down to 12 is very welcome.
“Summer is here and we are all feeling a greater sense of freedom. As the vaccination programme progresses we can all help by continuing with the small changes to our behaviour that are having a positive impact on the infection rates. Always remember to wear your face covering where recommended, keep your distance, spend more time outside, ensure good ventilation when indoors and wash your hands well and often. These simple measures will keep us and those around us safe while the vaccination programme continues to roll out in the coming months. Please take up the offer of the vaccine and remember your second dose is really important to protect you and others.”