CORONAVIRUS VACCINES are set to be rolled out from the beginning of 2021, according to Health Minister Stephen Donnelly.
Donnelly will meet with the head of Government’s vaccination taskforce, Professor Brian MacCraith, today to discuss a schedule and strategy for the rollout of the new drugs.
But while Professor MacCraith is not expected to deliver any official plans until mid-December, the Health Minister is predicting rollout to begin from January.
He also appeared to dismiss any suggestion of vaccinations beginning in December.
The Health Minister told Newstalk's On the Record with Gavan Reilly: "Potentially early in the new year we could be looking at things. Brian MacCraith and his team are obviously very quickly putting in place the distribution needed for that.
"I'd say December is unlikely to be honest with you, but quite soon."
Donnelly also said he is opposed to the idea of making vaccines mandatory in Ireland.
He said: "Several EU countries have introduced legislation on mandatory vaccination. We haven't and I can tell you there has been no conversation at a Government level about doing that.
"My strong preference with that is that it would be voluntary."
The comments come in the wake of a Red C opinion poll published by the Sunday Business Post that indicated 74% of the public would be in favour of taking a vaccine.
Donnelly also told RTE’s This Week that while cases are continuing to drop across Ireland, he expects those numbers to increase once level three restrictions are lifted.
The Health Minister said: "What we expect to see, and indeed what Nphet expects to see, is the number of cases will continue to fall for at least another week and potentially another two weeks.
"I then expect to see, and indeed Nphet expects to see, the cases beginning to go up again."
Despite this, he stressed that the Government has “no intention” of reimposing restrictions this year, noting that Ireland has seen "the biggest reduction in Covid cases anywhere in Europe".
"We've had more than a 90% reduction in Covid fatalities. We've had the biggest reduction in fatalities of any country in Europe.
"So, for every 10 people who died of Covid in the first wave, less than one died in wave two, even though the case numbers were about the same.
"Now, obviously any death is one too many. But for Ireland to have achieved the biggest reduction in fatalities per million population is testament to the work everyone has put in.
"As health minister, I have to say a huge, huge thank you to the health care workers, they've been fantastic."