Updated at 8:50 am
People in their 50s are expected to hear they will get their Covid-19 booster jab early under preparations being made by the Health Service Executive (HSE).
As reported in The Irish Times, the booster jabs will be initially administered by appointment at vaccine centres for people who have had their second dose in the last five months.
It is understood that the vaccines will then be made more widely available through walk-in clinics for people in their 50s, after a similar arrangement for those in their 60s.
Previously, the HSE’s lead for vaccinations, Damien McCallion, had raised the possibility of an earlier start date after a mid-December timeframe had been planned for the roll-out
“We expect to announce a date for those in the next week. We had said it will be around the middle of December, and we will certainly hold to that, if not earlier,” McCallion said.
Meanwhile, the HSE is waiting for guidance from the National Immunisation Advisory Committee (NIAC) on the roll-out of first vaccine doses to children aged between five and 11.
NIAC is also expected to announce whether the HSE should prioritise vaccines for children before moving on to booster doses for younger adult age groups.
As NIAC is set to make a decision on vaccines for children, students have been coming to terms with wearing masks to school in a bid to curb the spread of the virus.
The Irish College of General Practitioners representative on Nphet, Dr Mary Favier, has said that GPs welcomed the policy of mask wearing by school children as they were another layer of protection against the spread of the virus.
There was no one solution for stopping the spread of Covid-19, she told RTÉ radio’s Morning Ireland. “Masks are one part of that.”
The extension of mask wearing to schools had been welcome and children had shown they were willing to wear them, she said.
The high numbers of children being tested at present was to be expected, she said, as they were not vaccinated.
Testing would give a better idea of the level of the virus in the community and GPs had been referring children for testing to rule out respiratory infections and flu, she explained.
It was important for anyone with symptoms to self-isolate and book a PCR test, she urged.
There were no dates yet for the extension of the vaccination campaign for children aged five years to 11 years, she said, but GPs were always enthusiastic about vaccines.
However, Dr Favier expressed concern about the decline in referrals for non Covid illnesses especially lung, breast and prostate cancer. If people had a long term cough or lumps it was “particularly important” for them to have them checked out.
“Make those appointments,” she said.
-Addition reporting by Vivienne Clarke