Around one million people are likely to be targeted for Covid-19 booster shots as the State begins their rollout over autumn and winter.
The Irish Times has learned this is the number likely to be covered in the first push from sources involved in planning the rollout, however, planning is still at a preliminary stage.
Under initial advice given by the National Immunisation Advisory Committee (Niac), those targeted first will be healthcare workers, those over 80, residents of care facilities aged 65 and above, and those with certain medical conditions associated with suboptimal responses to the vaccines.
Those aged 60 to 79 and people at risk of severe Covid are next on the list.
Chief medical officer Tony Holohan last week told the Minister for Health that these are “preliminary proposals only”, which will be updated as more information becomes available in the coming weeks.
Several outstanding issues could also impact the scope of the booster programme, including advice on mixing vaccines, the space between second and booster doses, and precise definitions of the cohorts to be targeted.
Further advice from the European Medicines Agency (EMA) on regulatory matters, including the interval between a second shot and a booster dose is also awaited.
How many boosters are delivered, and to what extent the infrastructure around mass vaccination centres is retained, also has to be mapped out.
Scenarios are also being examined whereby boosters are given more widely, roughly equivalent to the 1.5 million who receive a free winter flu shot.
About 240,000 mRNA vaccine doses are to be delivered into the State per week in August.
Discussions are under way about whether to re-run walk-in vaccine clinics, but there are significant commitments – in the region of 850,000 doses – for scheduled appointments this month.
On Tuesday it was confirmed that the State has secured 700,000 additional vaccine doses from Pfizer to be rerouted direct from the manufacturer from Romania to Ireland, with the deliveries expected over the course of August.
As another 1,015 cases of Covid-19 were reported in the State on Tuesday, the United States added Ireland to its “level four” travel list due to rising Covid numbers, with the state department warning against travel to the country.