A COVID-19 vaccine booster programme could get underway as soon as September, the Health Minister says.
Stephen Donnelly says it will be done in conjunction with the flu vaccine, which is usually done in early autumn.
It’s believed boosters will be offered first to people at high risk of illness or exposure to COVID-19 - in particular those who were vaccinated early in the rollout.
Stephen Donnelly says we're also likely to see "pop-up" vaccination centres in the coming weeks, to make it as "easy as possible" for young people to get vaccinated.
He was speaking after NIAC and the Government gave the green light to extend vaccination to everyone aged 12-15.
Around 70% of the adult population is now fully vaccinated against the virus, with nearly 85% having received at least their first dose.
Minister Donnelly told Newstalk Breakfast work is underway to figure out the best way to extend the vaccine programme in the coming weeks.
He said: “My priority for some time has been children with underlying conditions.
"What we’re working through with the HSE at the moment is what’s the quickest way to do that.”
He said teenagers with underlying conditions may be able to book an appointment with their GP.
However, it may ultimately be quicker to allow everyone in the age group to register at the same time for appointments in the mass vaccination centres.
This weekend will also see the opening of the country's first walk-in vaccination centres.
Minister Donnelly said: “It’s this bank holiday weekend… it’s mRNA vaccines, so Pfizer or Moderna. Anyone over the age of 16... can just walk in.”
He said it doesn't matter if someone has already registered via the vaccine portal - they can still attend the new centre if they haven't had their first dose yet.
People can also get registered at the walk-in sites themselves, once they provide their PPS number, mobile phone number and photo ID.
The Health Minister said we're likely to see pop-up vaccination centres at the likes of sporting events, parks, beaches and music venues in the coming weeks.
He said it looks like a "very large majority" of young people want to get vaccinated, and officials now want to make it as easy as possible for them to get a vaccine.
Meanwhile, NIAC has suggested a booster programme should happen at the same time as flu vaccine programme - which typically starts at the end of September.
Minister Donnelly “We’ll have the biggest vaccine activity in any winter in the history of the State… we’re looking at the best way to do that."