Booster vaccines are to get underway for over-50s from Thursday, amid fresh calls for anyone eligible to get their booster as soon as possible.
Stephen Donnelly today confirmed people in their 50s will be offered appointments at vaccination centres from Thursday.
Walk-in appointments will be available in some centres, while some GPs and pharmacies will also be offering vaccines.
📣This Thursday we'll commence booster vaccinations for those aged 50-59.
We've already seen the benefits to the older age groups who have received their booster vaccines. #ForUsAll pic.twitter.com/vG8J5NSLMw
— Stephen Donnelly (@DonnellyStephen) December 7, 2021
One million booster vaccines or third doses have been administered so far.
However, both the Taoiseach and Chief Medical Officer have today issued fresh pleas for people to get vaccinated as soon as possible.
Micheál Martin told the Dáil tens of thousands of people aren't showing up for their booster vaccine appointments every week.
He said: "In the week commencing 22 November, 208,000 appointments were offered, of which about 80,000 turned up.
"Last week, of 180,000 appointments, 93,000 turned up.
"The same urgency does not seem to be there in respect of availing of the option to take the booster as was there when we were offered the first and second doses."
He said there have been "significant reductions" in COVID incidence rate among those who've received boosters, suggesting the extra doses will make a "really significant impact" in dealing with the ongoing Delta wave.
That was a message echoed by Dr Tony Holohan as NPHET reported 5,590 new cases of the virus today.
The Chief Medical Officer said boosters have been shown to "produce very strong antibody responses and are likely to provide protection against severe disease, hospitalisation and death from most variants".
He said: “Do not wait until after Christmas to receive your booster vaccine, the benefits of receiving your booster dose far outweigh any potential risks that may arise in the meantime.
"You will begin to receive the benefit of your booster protecting with seven days of receiving your third dose.
"This means that anybody who received their vaccine this week can be confident in the protection the booster will offer them as we move closer to the Christmas period."
People are eligible for a booster five months after their second initial dose.
Anyone who received the one-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine can receive a booster after three months, however, and will be prioritised as the booster campaign rolls out to younger age groups.