Booster vaccines to protect against Covid-19 are expected to roll out to hundreds of thousands of people in their 50s as Ireland faces another surge in the disease.
The expansion of the booster programme comes as part of a bid to keep the Government’s pandemic policy on track, according to The Irish Times.
Ministers were given dire warnings on Monday night about the impact of the current wave on healthcare.
Preliminary modelling presented to the Cabinet Covid subcommittee suggests that, based on current levels of socialisation, the peak in cases could range between 5,000 and 12,000 a day, with large case numbers lasting into the new year.
Chief executive of the HSE Paul Reid told the meeting that the health service was now at greater risk than at any time during the pandemic, as it attempts to provide other care amid the Covid surge.
The Government was said to be “taken aback” at the level of Covid hospitalisations, and the signals were it was to double down on its policies of wider use of vaccine certs, boosters and antigen testing in a bid to tackle the virus.
The use of the Covid vaccine cert is set to be extended to include gyms and hairdressers.
The Government also looks set to backtrack on its advice for a phased return to the workplace, with proposals on Monday night discussed that would see workers advised to stay home where possible.
There are plans to introduce a subsidy for antigen tests to encourage their greater use. Indications on Monday night were that tests would be as cheap as possible – no more than around €3 a test, sources said.
Ahead of Monday night’s meeting, Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly said he expected advice from the National Immunisation Advisory Committee (Niac) would enable the use of Covid-19 booster vaccines to be extended “significantly”.
The expectation is that the programme will be expanded to 600,000 people in their 50s, as well as younger people with underlying health conditions. Booster jabs began for people aged 60 to 79 years earlier this month.
The UK earlier on Monday approved boosters for everyone over 40 as other European countries reintroduced restrictions.