Taoiseach Micheal Martin said the imminent arrival of a coronavirus vaccine will "motivate" people into following pandemic health rules.
Rejecting suggestions a vaccine could lead to complacency among the public, Mr Martin said the vaccines must be seen as a "tool" and an "extra weapon" in the country's armoury to tackle the virus.
The Government and the HSE said it was realistic that Ireland would start its vaccination programme early next month.
As coronavirus restrictions eased and thousands of restaurants, cafes and gastropubs reopened their doors, Mr Martin warned about the risks attached to reopening the economy and society.
"Personal responsibility and collective responsibility is going to be central to all of this," he said.
"Without doubt there are risks, so personal behaviour is very important.
"There is, from a social, economic and mental wellbeing perspective, an importance to be attached to the opening of restaurants and non-essential retail."
Mr Martin said people realise the vaccine won't be immediately rolled out across the country.
"People will say: 'Look it's been a terrible year. We're fatigued, we're fed up of all of the restrictions but the vaccines are coming'," he said.
"If (they) keep doing what they're doing, there is a very good chance of emerging from this in the best possible way, in terms of the economy relatively intact and in a position to try and reboot it and reignite it and get it going again, and also protecting public health.
"The arrival of vaccines must be seen as a tool, as an extra weapon in our armoury to deal with this terrible virus."
Mr Martin said he believes a lot of people are adhering to the guidelines and will follow the rules over the festive period.
"It's been very difficult for people and I think people are very conscientious over Christmas actually," he added.
"This can go either way but my sense of people's commitment and personal behaviour is that people are strongly working to make sure that they or their family don't get the virus.
"That's my sense talking to people, talking to my own friends, talking to my family. I get that sense strongly that there is a desire to, by and large, follow the guidelines over the Christmas period and to get through it.
"People's aspirations over Christmas are grounded in realism.
The reopening of restaurants, cafes and gastropubs comes after six weeks of Level Five restrictions which saw businesses shut all over the country.
Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe admitted to having mixed feelings about it, with the Government attempting to balance public health advice with the needs of business.
He said: "The feelings I have about that do reflect many of the decisions I've been involved in during the year.
"On the one hand, it is so tremendous that we are going to see tens of thousands of our fellow citizens go back to work this week.
"We have two jobs in our country across 2021 in particular that will be so important: beat Covid and get our country back to work. To see so many go back to work this week is essential.
"But, on the other hand, it's equally essential that when we are in our restaurants, when we are in our pubs that are open, when we're in our hotels, we have to respect not only the livelihoods of those who are looking after us but their health as well."
The HSE meanwhile is upping its preparations for the rollout of the coronavirus vaccine, which is expected to be available from January.
Earlier today, CEO Paul Reid tweeted a photo of nine ultra-low temperature freezers which arrived in the country this week.
He wrote: "We're preparing for the Covid-19 vaccine roll out in Ireland. At the HSE National Cold Chain Centre, we have received and are currently commissioning & validating a consignment of 9 x Ultra Low Temperature Freezers for storage of the vaccines at -75 degrees."
Mr Reid told a press briefing this week that Ireland has the capacity to acquire 16 million doses of a Covid-19 vaccine.