Everyone who lives or works in a nursing home should get at least their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine by Sunday week, the Health Minister has said.
70,000 healthcare workers will also have received their first jab by that date.
Stephen Donnelly also said everyone over the age of 70 is set to have received their first dose of the vaccine by the end of March, with most also getting their second dose by that date.
The vaccine programme has been ramping up in recent weeks, with the first doses of the Moderna vaccine arriving in the country yesterday - the second vaccine to be used here following the Pfizer jab.
— Stephen Donnelly (@DonnellyStephen) January 12, 2021
AstraZeneca has submitted a formal application for EU approval for their own vaccine, and a decision is now expected in the coming weeks.
Minister Donnelly told The Pat Kenny Show he'll be asking European colleagues whether there's any way to speed that approval process up safely, as that vaccine could be a 'real gamechanger' as it doesn't have to be stored in very cold conditions.
However, he said the vaccination programme here has been 'sped up' recently as efficient supply chains means they've been able to reduce the 'buffer supply' being held as a contingency for second doses.
The Fianna Fáil minister said they've now currently working to vaccinate 50,000 people a week, and that will increase alongside supplies.
The current target is to have 700,000 people vaccinated by the end of March, which would cover the first three groups of prioritisation - all nursing and care home staff and residents; all frontline healthcare workers; and people over the age of 70.
He said: “What we can say now is based on provisional amount - and these still need to be agreed, and AstraZeneca still needs to be authorised - is that everyone over 70 will have a first dose and most people a second dose within the next 11 weeks.”
Vaccine supply will increase significantly in the second quarter of the year, and would allow the vaccination of the likes of those with underlying health conditions, key workers, school staff, and anyone aged 55 or older.
That would leave just the final three prioritisation groups for quarter three: remaining workers in "occupations important to the functioning of society"; anyone else aged 18 and upwards; and children, teenagers and pregnant women.
Minister Donnelly defended the Government sticking with the EU to secure vaccine supplies.
He observed: “The strategy and approach is to do with ever the best thing to do is to maximise the number of deliveries coming into the country… we believe the best way of doing that is to stick with the EU.
“Every country in the world is screaming for these vaccinations: because we are buying as part of the biggest economic group in the world… our belief is we have access to a level of vaccines far beyond what we’d be able to get as a small country if we went off on our own.”
Minister Donnelly added that he believes people will be vaccinated in a number of different places as the vaccination programme speeds up - including in GPs' offices, pharmacies and dedicated vaccination centres.