There has been a ‘lack of urgency’ about the booster vaccine programme up to now, according to the head of the Irish Medical Organisation's GP committee.
The Government will unveil a plan to 'really accelerate' the booster campaign later this week – with the HSE aiming to be able to administer 300,000 jabs a week.
The plan is due to be signed off on in the coming days and will include details of when the over-50s can get their booster.
The announcement will also include a plan for vaccinating children aged five to 11-years-old.
People were turned away from a walk-in vaccination centre in Punchestown again today as the system struggles to meet demand.
That came after long queues formed outside walk-in centres at UCD and Croke Park last week with people turned away due to lack of capacity.
Despite the demand, the Chair of the Irish Medical Organisation’s GP Committee Dr Denis McCauley told the Pat Kenny Show this morning, that there is more reluctance surrounding the booster programme then the initial rollout.
“There has been a lack of urgency in the general public about boosters up until now but I think the information about the effectiveness of the third dose in fighting Omicron will increase the urgency,” he said.
“So, I would imagine, hopefully, in January there will be a mass campaign and we can give boosters to as many people as possible.”
The booster rollout has already been accelerated in the North and in Britain, where UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson last night warned that Omicron could bring a tidal wave of cases.
Minister of State Jack Chambers told Newstalk that the Government will announce plan to “really accelerate” the booster programme within days.
“I know the HSE are hopeful they will be able to hit up to 300,000 per week within the next wo weeks,” he said.
“We saw, last week, them hitting 40,000 on Thursday for example. So, we are trying to accelerate capacity and ensure we use every resource to get as many people vaccinated with the booster as quickly as possible.
“We know that gives us good protection against the risk of the Omicron variant.”
Minister Chambers said the new plan will offer certainty to people in their 40s awaiting their booster and to parents planning to vaccinate young children.
He said the Government would wait on guidance from National Immunisation Advisory Committee (NIAC) before cutting the amount of time people must wait before second and third doses.
Under the current guidelines, people can’t get a booster until at least five months after they are deemed fully vaccinated, unless they received the Janssen jab, in which case it is three months.
In several other countries including the UK, the wait time is three months for all vaccines.
Minister Chambers said the European Medicines Agency (EMA) has said three months is safe – but the Government will wait to hear from NIAC before making any decision.
“The Government implements and works with the advice from NIAC and that will dictate any narrowing of the gap to three months – or any other gap when it comes to boosters or the vaccination rollout,” he said.
On Newstalk Breakfast earlier, Immunology Professor Paul Moynagh warned that the perceived race between Omicron and the booster rollout will 'go on for some time'.
He said there is now “a lot of urgency” attached to rolling out the booster programme as quickly as possible.
With reporting from Eoghan Murphy and Sean Defoe