HOSPITALS and nursing homes in Ireland will be prioritised for the rollout of the coronavirus vaccine when one officially becomes available.
Under plans being presented to the Government on Tuesday, it's understood that the primary focus will be to vaccinate nursing home residents and healthcare workers.
Ireland is yet to clinically approve a vaccine, unlike the UK which last week became the first country in the world to do so, but after agreeing deals with five pharmaceutical companies, rollout of a vaccine is expected to begin in early January.
As an EU nation, Ireland must wait for approval from the European Medicines Agency (EMA), as all countries in the bloc will receive vaccine doses based on the size of their population.
Ireland will receive around 1% of the vaccines purchased through the EU scheme.
Minister for Higher Education Simon Harris says the vaccines will be "transformational" once they're rolled out in Ireland, but warned that while the tide may be set to turn, it was important for the public not to let "their guard down".
"If we do we could end up in a really dangerous place, if we hear of good news over the horizon but lots of people get sick in the meantime, and we need to avoid that," Harris told RTE.
"It is the beginning of the end, but it is not the end," he stressed.
"It is going to take a number of months to get everybody in our country [vaccinated].
"We have to listen to our doctors. The same people who have steered us through this pandemic have done a very good job in keeping us safe and giving us good, honest advice.
"Those are the same people making the key decisions about who should get the vaccine first and how it should be rolled out."