By Michelle Devane, PA
No change has been made to the Government's “official” policy on the vaccine priority list to fast-track the vaccination of younger people.
The comment from Government comes after the Minister for Health, Stephen Donnelly, said consideration was being given to changing the focus of the vaccine priority list to allow people aged 18-30 to be inoculated ahead of those aged 30-50.
Following Mr Donnelly's comments, a spokesman for the Government said: “There is no change to the official Government policy on the vaccine priority list to focus on people aged 18-30.”
The earlier vaccination of the younger cohort was raised as an option to help halt the transmission of Covid-19, according to Mr Donnelly.
A further four deaths and 420 cases of Covid-19 were confirmed in the Republic on Saturday.
Of the new cases, 74 per cent are under 45 years of age and the median age is 32 years old.
Some senior Government officials fear a spike in cases among younger people once society begins to reopen, as under-30s are more likely than other age groups to socialise together in large numbers.
“I’ve asked the department to assess the case for vaccinating younger cohorts earlier, on the basis of reducing overall transmission as quickly as possible,” Mr Donnelly told The Irish Times.
Responding to Mr Donnelly's comments on Saturday, HSE chief executive Paul Reid said he was unaware of any proposal to change the vaccination priority list.
From next Monday we’ll start administering the vaccine to the 65 to 69-year-olds
He said that if the Government changed tack, the HSE would change its plans accordingly but added that “all the medical and scientific advice… is to administer it based on age”.
He stressed that the health service was continuing to work on the list that focuses on older cohorts and medically vulnerable groups.
“From next Monday we’ll start administering the vaccine to the 65 to 69-year-olds,” Mr Reid told RTÉ News.
“From this morning we have over 66,000 registered on the online registration system. Some of those will have been given appointments this weekend for next week.”
Meanwhile in Northern Ireland, two further deaths linked to Covid-19 and 99 new cases were confirmed on Saturday.
Approaching 60 per cent of the region’s adult population has received at least one dose of a coronavirus vaccine, compared to just over 20 per cent of the Republic's adult population.