Senior officials expect that advice from the National Immunisation Advisory Committee (Niac), due this week, will clear the way for the use of the Johnson & Johnson and AstraZeneca vaccines for people under 50.
According to The Irish Times, Ministers and senior figures in the health service have been waiting for revised advice from Niac on the use of the vaccines since last week, and there is an expectation that it will be forwarded to the Government before the weekend.
The HSE will shortly begin sending the J&J vaccine to vaccination centres for use in the currently approved cohorts.
On Wednesday evening there were growing hopes the advice from Niac could allow for even more latitude than the age range for eligibility suggested by the HSE, of 45-50.
One source told The Irish Times the expectation is that it would allow people aged 45 and above to receive the shot at “the very least”.
CSO data analysed by the HSE suggests that another 230,000 people would become eligible to receive the vaccines if the eligibility was lowered to 45.
About 530,000 people are aged between 35 and 44, meaning hundreds of thousands more people could become eligible if the decision broadens the age range further. Some of the people in these age groups would have been vaccinated in earlier cohorts.
Growing confidence in Government around the vaccine programme was reflected in comments made at the Fine Gael parliamentary party meeting by Tánaiste Leo Varadkar. He told colleagues that everyone who wants a Covid-19 vaccine appointment could be offered one by the end of June.
Ministers were told on Tuesday that about 35.5 per cent of the adult population had received a first shot of vaccine, and 13 per cent were fully vaccinated. Between 250,000 and 270,000 vaccines will be administered this week.
About 240,000 doses have been delivered in the 60- to 69-year-old age range, which comprises approximately 420,000 people. Last week, a total of 214,920 vaccines were delivered, the Department of Health said on Wednesday.