Tánaiste Leo Varadkar has said up to 100,000 vaccinations are expected to be administered each week during the month of April as roll-out ramps up.
As the Irish Times reports, he told a private meeting of the Fine Gael parliamentary party on Wednesday night that the next few months will be “grim” but he is “optimistic” about the summer.
The meeting also heard from other participants, such as former tánaiste Frances Fitzgerald, Kildare TD Bernard Durkan and Senator Jerry Buttimer that the new Covid-19 restrictions on international travel do not go far enough.
It is understood no-one explicitly argued for a so-called ‘Zero Covid’ strategy to be adopted, but there were calls for more stringent measures around mandatory quarantine for people travelling into Ireland.
Mr Varadkar told TDs and Senators that he was “quietly confident” that, with the number of Covid-19 cases falling, schools will begin a phased reopening starting with special needs children in mid-February.
He said Minister for Education Norma Foley and Josepha Madigan, the Minister of State for Special Education, are working on the matter but “we’re not there yet”.
Mr Varadkar offered the latest projections on the vaccine rollout.
He said the European Union is taking a hard line in demanding that Astra Zeneca honour its contract with the EU amid the row over the shortage in vaccine supply.
The AstraZeneca vaccine is expected to be authorised for use by the European Medicines Agency (EMA) on Friday, which would allow Ireland to start using it from next week.
He is said to have cautioned against saying the next group to be vaccinated is the over-70s, as it will be older age groups (i.e. over-80s) that get vaccinated first.
He said current projections are for 1.1 million doses of various vaccines to be administered by the end of March, rising to 1.5 million in April and two million by the end of May.