Simon Harris expects Covid-19 vaccine portal will open for 16-17 age group by August 1 month ago

Simon Harris expects Covid-19 vaccine portal will open for 16-17 age group by August

"We're seeing a particular spike in cases among that age group."

Minister for Further and Higher Education Simon Harris has said that he expects the vaccine portal for 16 to 17-year-olds will open by August.

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Discussing the reopening of universities at the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Education, Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science on Thursday, Harris said that he would like to see the age cohort be called for vaccines in "early August".

Harris said he would like to see the portal open "as quickly as possible", adding that there are concerns due to a "particular spike" in the age group.

He added that many of the 16 to 17 age group could also be attending third level education this year, making the vaccine ramp up even more important.

"Many of them could end up being college students but also, we're seeing a particular spike in cases among that age group," he said.

"It would be great if, early in August, we could see the portal open for 16 and 17-year-olds and that is my expectation that that will happen".

It comes as Harris confirmed on Wednesday that third-level universities will be permitted to reopen on campus from September.

The government announced that it will be putting €105 million in state funds towards the reopening of the sector, with a further €21 million for additional student supports.

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He added that the funding will go towards "Covid-19 supports for the sector" as well as supports for students  who will "return to a new world in September".

"Third-level education has been primarily online for almost a year and a half and this is not sustainable. The Plan for a Safe Return On-Site includes the return of lectures, with some modifications to overall numbers and specific mitigation measures," Harris said.

He added that a "contingency plan" will also be in place in the event of a significant spike in Covid-19 cases as case numbers throughout the country have continued to climb over the past number of weeks.

However, he said that universities will continue to have "significant on-site attendance", even in the event of a rise in cases, as government wants to avoid "an academic year like the last".