The Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly says the arrival of the coronavirus vaccine in the country is "a day of hope for Ireland".
The first shipments of the Pfizer/BioNTech drug arrived here on St Stephen's Day, with Ireland to begin vaccinating people on December 30th.
Minister Donnelly explained: "We're going to be targeting people in nursing homes, people who work in the nursing home sector, and our frontline healthcare workers just to begin with".
He also said that Ireland would see "tens of thousands" of deliveries of the vaccine every week through January.
"It's been a really, really tough year for Ireland right across this country", he said.
Today is a day of hope for Ireland. This morning we received the first shipment of #Covid vaccines from Pfizer / BioNTech.
From January we'll be receiving tens of thousands of doses a week and hope to have the Moderna vaccine coming through soon. #Holdfirm pic.twitter.com/wVXPXQsC5l
— Stephen Donnelly (@DonnellyStephen) December 26, 2020
In a post on Twitter on Saturday, he went on to thank those who have got behind the public health measures.
"My ask as Minister for Health for the country now is please stick with the public health advice, stick with the measures.
"We've shown incredible solidarity, incredible resilience - we've been minding each other and keeping each other safe all year.
"While we get these vaccines out, and while we vaccinate more and more people, we need to stick with it".
He was speaking as other parts of Europe begin their vaccination programme against the pandemic on Sunday.
The European Medicines Agency (EMA) approved the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine on December 21st, and the aim is for all adults to be vaccinated by the end of 2021.
Some countries have called on doctors and nurses to come back from retirement to help the vaccination effort, while some have trained people from other occupations to assist.
Governments are promoting the vaccine as the continent's best chance to return to normal life, with European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen saying: "Vaccination is the lasting way out of the pandemic".
Germany's Health Minister Jens Spahn said on Saturday: "This vaccine is the decisive key to end this pandemic... the key to getting our lives back."
EU nations have recorded at least 16 million coronavirus infections and more than 336,000 deaths, although real numbers are likely to be higher due to limited testing particularly early on in the pandemic.
The bloc had planned a coordinated rollout on Sunday but Hungary, Germany and Slovakia began vaccinating people on Saturday.
France also received its first shipment of the vaccine on Saturday and said it would prioritise the elderly.
In Italy, temporary solar-powered healthcare pavilions will be built in town squares - and in Spain the first doses will be given at a care home in the central city of Guadalajara.
Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis was the first to get the vaccine in the Czech Republic on Sunday morning, ahead of the distribution of 9,750 doses across the country.
In Poland, the first two people to be vaccinated on Sunday will be a nurse and a doctor at the interior ministry hospital in Warsaw, followed by medical workers in other hospitals.
Additional reporting: IRN