VACCINATION of people aged 70 or over in Ireland will begin at the start of next month, Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly has confirmed.
In a statement, he said that the oldest people will be prioritised, with those aged 85 and older set to receive the vaccine first, followed by people aged between 80-84, then those aged 75-79, and finally those aged 70-74.
Since Ireland's Covid-19 vaccination programme began last month, care home residents over the age of 65, as well as frontline healthcare workers, have been the country's number one priority.
But with the programme running smoothly, and with more doses of the vaccine set to arrive shortly, other groups are now able to be treated.
This is despite supply issues with the AstraZeneca vaccine - which is expected to be approved by the European Medicines Agency (EMA) soon - meaning that Ireland's batch will contain a "considerably lower' amount of doses than was previously stated.
"Today we have confirmed that the community vaccination programme will begin in February, subject to regulatory approval of AstraZeneca," Minister Donnelly said.
"The next stage of our vaccine programme will begin with those aged 85 years and older and will be administered initially through GPs in their surgeries.
"The HSE is preparing a public information campaign that will provide all necessary details in advance and ensure that everyone knows when, where and how to access their vaccine.
"Despite anticipated disruption to deliveries, which was announced on Friday 22 January, Ireland will receive a delivery of AstraZeneca vaccine within the expected range for February, although at the lower end of that range."
Donnelly stressed that while the country was preparing to vaccinate a wider range of aged groups, the main priority was still to complete all vaccinations of the most vulnerable.
"Every possible nursing home resident has already received one dose and some have received second doses," he said.
"Healthcare workers are also a priority. Second doses will be administered over the coming weeks to 77,000 healthcare workers. We will continue to roll out first and second doses to our remaining frontline healthcare workers during February."