It is unlikely that the target to vaccinate the entirety of the Irish population against Covid-19 by September will be met, the Taoiseach has said.
The Irish Examiner reports that Micheál Martin conceded that the Government vaccination target, stated by the Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly, will be missed.
Mr Martin said he envisaged the “end of (the) year” as a new target for vaccinating all Irish citizens.
“But again, that's subject to all the caveats,” he added.
Mr Martin said that a “critical mass” of the population would be vaccinated by September.
“I can't say it'll be the entire population over 18 at that stage. I think we'll be well on the road,” he said.
The Taoiseach warned that the Republic could also lag behind on vaccines intended to be administered by March, as Ireland is set to receive 300,000 fewer AstraZeneca vaccine doses than originally planned.
The shortfall in AstraZeneca vaccines due to supply issues means some 150,000 fewer people will be fully vaccinated in the first three months of the year.
The head of the national vaccination taskforce, Professor Brian MacCraith, has said there is also no certainty over the supply of vaccines from April onwards.
“We are not sure about March... It's much more serious with AstraZeneca,” Mr Martin said about the potential for delays.
Ireland will receive its first shots of the AstraZeneca and Oxford University vaccine during the week beginning February 8th.
The State's regulators are yet to decide if it will be given to people over the age of 65, after the European Medicines Agency (EMA) concluded there were not yet enough results for those aged over 55 to determine how well the vaccine works for this group.
The AstraZeneca vaccine is considered particularly important as it is easier to store and transport than the Pfizer or Moderna jabs.
Mr Martin said the recent vaccine supply row between drug maker AstraZeneca and the European Union had been a "bump in the road".
There was always a sense there could be challenges around manufacturing capacity globally, he added, as countries around the world were looking to obtain the vaccine at the same time.
Separately on Friday night, the Taoiseach welcomed the European Commission’s decision not to invoke Article 16 of the Northern Ireland protocol on Brexit, which would stop the unimpeded flow of vaccines from the bloc into the region.
Late on Friday night, Brussels U-turned on the move, following condemnation from London, Dublin and Belfast.
It comes as the head of the European Medicines Agency has warned that none of the vaccines approved for use in the EU are a “magic wand” to defeat the pandemic.
A further 48 Covid-19 related deaths and 1,254 additional cases were confirmed in the Republic on Friday.