The COVID vaccine booster programme has been expanded to include everyone over the age of 50, the Health Minister has confirmed.
Boosters will also be offered to anyone over the age of 16 with an underlying health condition.
They will also be offered to all residents of long-term care facilities, regardless of their age.
Minister Donnelly said the changes come following fresh advice from the National Immunisation Advisory Committee (NIAC).
“NIAC has pointed out that the risk of vaccinated people aged 50-59 years requiring hospitalisation and becoming seriously ill and dying is higher than in younger age groups, therefore they are next in the order of priority for booster vaccination,” said.
“In Ireland, we have already seen that booster doses given to those aged 80 years and older have been followed by a sharp decline in case numbers in that age group. This is very welcome news, and I encourage all of those who are eligible for a booster dose of COVID-19 vaccine to come forward and receive that vaccine as soon as it is available to you.”
Under the new rules, people will be eligible for the booster five months after completing their ‘primary vaccine schedule’ – one dose for Jansen and two doses for all others.
Anyone who was diagnosed with COVID while fully vaccinated will have to wait until at least six months after their diagnosis.
“NIAC has strongly recommended that those who have yet to receive their primary vaccination do so as a matter of urgency given the current force of infection in the community,” said Minister Donnelly.
“Our frontline health care workers are telling is that unvaccinated individuals have much higher rates of infection, hospitalisation, ICU admission and mortality than those who are fully vaccinated.
“Please come forward to get your vaccine as soon as possible, the HSE wants to see you.”
Speaking in the Dáil this afternoon, the Taoiseach said the booster rollout among health workers will be substantially completed by the end of December.
He said the over-85s will be largely complete by the middle of this month with those in their 70s done by the end of November or early December.
He said those in their 60s should be largely complete by the end of December.
Minister Donnelly said he was reinstating the COVID vaccination taskforce to oversee the booster rollout.
He said the Department of Health was working to begin the wider booster rollout as soon as possible.