A COVID-19 vaccine is expected to be rolled out across Ireland over the first half of 2021, according to Taoiseach Micheál Martin.
The vaccine, which has been developed by Pfizer and was found to be over 90% effective in clinical trials, will initially be made available to priority groups over the first part of the year.
Martin told RTÉ that the plan is to then begin vaccinating the rest of the country by the middle of 2021.
The Taoiseach’s comments come in a week that saw the European Commission rubber stamp a contract for the purchase of up to 300 million doses of the treatment, subject to the vaccine being approved.
While Martin was unable to provide specific dates for availability and distribution, he did offer a rough timeline for when the public can expect life to return to some semblance of normal.
"I think you're looking at hopefully the first half of 2021 that we can start rolling out vaccines, and maybe earlier for more vulnerable groups,” he told host Bryan Dobson.
Asked when those not currently categorised as part of the vulnerable group can expect the vaccine, Martin responded: "The middle of next year... That would be my guesstimate at this stage."
The projections came on a day when the Fianna Fáil leader also revealed the government was considering easing restrictions in late December to allow households to visit each other over Christmas.
He did warn that any and all Christmas parties are likely to banned.
"I want a meaningful Christmas," he said. "We can't be at Level 5 forever."
"We’ve learned from Level 2 what worked and what didn’t work," he added.
"People won’t be going on the lash, [or] to Christmas parties.
"It will not be the same Christmas as last year."