The first Covid-19 vaccines are being administered to people over the age of 50 in Ireland from today.
The vaccine rollout is on course for its best week yet, with 223,000 doses administered up to Saturday.
However, the HSE is already targeting to top this with a record 250,000 jabs this week.
Less than a week after the online registration portal opened for their cohort, newly-vaccinated over-50s leaving the mass vaccination centre in Citywest, Dublin told Newstalk radio they finally feel the programme ramping up.
“Hell of a difference – I only registered last week and I’m in this week, so I think that’s quick,” one woman said.
Another said: “I’m younger than the 60-year-old, so just by a few years but mine came in and I’m delighted, it came in earlier than expected.”
The latest vaccination figures show 28,000 doses were administered on Saturday after 52,000 on Friday – the highest total in a single day so far.
It comes as health officials are considering using the AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson vaccines for those under the age of 50.
The Taoiseach has voiced support for lowering the age limit on the Johnson & Johnson jab to ensure none go to waste, while Health Minister Stephen Donnelly has said an excess of some vaccines may be unavoidable.
Amid the rollout, professor of immunology at Trinity College Dublin, Kingston Mills, told Newstalk radio there is a lot to be positive about.
“The numbers of cases of Covid-19 in the older population has declined significantly and in healthcare workers and in the areas where people have been vaccinated – it really is working,” he said.
There are currently 31 Covid-19 patients in intensive care units — down from a high of 221 people in late January and representing the lowest number this year.
There are 124 Covid-19 patients in hospital today — an increase of eight from 24 hours ago.
Monday marks the greatest easing of Covid-19 restrictions so far this year, as intercounty travel resumes, three households or six people can meet outdoors and a vaccine bonus comes into force.
A phased reopening of non-essential retail has also begun, with shoppers returning to stores such as Penneys, while personal services such as hairdressers can also reopen by appointment.
Tánaiste Leo Varadkar has said that today is a day of freedom thanks to the efforts of the Irish people, the HSE and businesses.