Pharmacies around Ireland will begin administering COVID vaccines this week.
Some 1,300 pharmacies will be administering the Johnson & Johnson (Jansen) shot with supplies of the Pfizer jab arriving in the next few weeks.
On Breakfast Briefing this morning, the Irish Pharmacy Union (IPU) Chief Executive Darragh O'Loughlin said it is an exciting day for pharmacists.
“We are very pleased that after months of trying to get vaccination available in pharmacies, they will start arriving today,’ he said.
“Initially, we will be vaccinating people over 50 who haven’t already been vaccinated using the single-shot Jansen vaccine.
“Then, towards the end of this month, the Pfizer vaccine will start arriving in to a smaller number of pharmacies – particularly those that are bit of a distance from vaccination centres.”
He said people who are over 50 and remain unvaccinated can now call their pharmacy to make an appointment.
“The pharmacist will be able to set you up on the portal if you are not on it and will be able to do that vaccination for you,” he said.
“It will be appointment-based but it won’t simply be a case walking in the door. The doses come in vials of five and we want to avoid wasted doses as much as possible so we will be making appointments in fives.
“So, if you contact the pharmacy and make an appointment make sure you turn up for that appointment to avoid wasted doses.”
Mr O'Loughlin said there was “a lot of frustration and disappointment” among pharmacists that it has taken this long to include them in the rollout.
“When the vaccination programme was originally published last winter, we were included in it – it was pharmacists, GPS and vaccination centres – but for their own reasons the HSE didn’t implement the pharmacy piece,” he said.
“We have been pushing all year to overcome any hurdle that is in the way to try and get vaccination rolled out to pharmacies.
“Even now it is only a limited number of pharmacies that will be getting the Pfizer vaccine so we would like to see that increased so people all over the country have the opportunity to get a vaccine in a pharmacy.”
He said he hoped the National Immunisation Advisory Committee (NIAC) would soon clear the Jansen jab for use in people in their 40s.
He also said he expected pharmacies to have a clear role in the administration of booster shots if and when they are rolled out.