In a boost to the State's vaccine rollout, Ireland is set to receive a delivery of 165,000 doses of the AstraZeneca jab next week that had earlier been postponed until May.
The delivery has been made possible after the European Medicines Agency (EMA) allowed AstraZeneca vaccines to be manufactured at a plant in Asia.
The Irish Times reports that AstraZeneca now expects to hit its European delivery target of 20 million doses this month, followed by 70 million in the second quarter.
Ireland will receive a pro rata share of about one per cent.
The Health Service Executive said it was “more hopeful than we were” of supplies arriving next week, the HSE has been very critical of changes to the delivery schedule of AstraZeneca vaccines.
The National Immunisation Advisory Committee (Niac) is currently considering whether to broaden the use of the AstraZeneca vaccine in the population.
The vaccine is currently restricted to those aged over 60.
The HSE's online vaccine registration system opened to those aged 64 yesterday and 63-year-olds can register from today.
Over 170,000 people have registered since the portal went live last week.
The EMA has said the benefits of the AstraZeneca vaccine outweigh the risks after rare cases of bloodclotting were identified in a small number of people under the age of 60.
Niac is also expected to authorise the use of the single-jab Johnson & Johnson vaccine next week which would further accelerate the national vaccination programme.
However, one Government Minister told The Irish Times that there was unease over Niac's “lack of urgency” in the consideration of vaccines.
Johnson & Johnson vaccine
Government had hoped to receive the all clear for the Johnson & Johnson vaccine before the weekend but Niac said there would be no decision until early next week.
HSE chief Paul Reid said the vaccines would start to be rolled out next week if they are given approval.
He added that 40,000 doses of the single-dose jab would be available next week.
Taoiseach Micheál Martin said approval of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine would “really advance the [vaccination] programme”.
Government sources told The Irish Times that there are fears that a negative decision on this vaccine would hit public confidence in the vaccination programme and support for Covid guidelines.
“We can’t tell people to continue with social distancing without saying there’s a chance of being vaccinated,” said a Government source. “If we’ve 40,000 [Johnson & Johnson doses] in the fridge, how can you ethically or morally justify not giving them out?”