Optometrists have joined the ranks of vaccinators delivering Covid-19 vaccines to the Irish public.
The eye-care specialists are one of a number of healthcare professions approved to administer Covid jabs after the completion of HSE-approved training.
Of almost 700 Association of Optometrists Ireland (AOI) members, around 10 per cent have now been trained and a further 10 per cent are in the process of completing the certification process.
AOI president John Weldon, an optometrist based in east Galway, was one of the first to deliver a Covid-19 vaccine last weekend at the Aviva mass vaccination centre.
“Our profession is committed to supporting public vaccination that is safe and delivered to our citizens as soon as possible. This also opens the door for optometrists to play a greater role in public vaccination programmes into the future,” Mr Weldon said.
“If booster vaccinations for Covid-19 variants become a regular part of life like the seasonal flu vaccination, AOI envisages a future when people can receive these vaccinations at their local certified optometrist, similar to at a GP practice or pharmacist.
“This is an example of the many things optometrists can provide to improve public health. With approval from the HSE we can also carry out greater prescribing and help with the care of chronic eye conditions in the community working with our hospitals. This would greatly help to reduce our large eye-care waiting lists.”
Mr Weldon urged other members of the profession to complete the relevant training and join the public health response.
It comes as the first Covid-19 vaccines were administered to people over the age of 50 in Ireland on Monday.
The HSE is targeting its best week yet for the vaccine rollout, aiming to deliver a record 250,000 jabs this week.
Health officials are still considering the use of the AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson vaccines for those under the age of 50.
The Taoiseach has voiced support for lowering the age limit on the Johnson & Johnson jab to ensure none go to waste, while Health Minister Stephen Donnelly has said an excess of some vaccines may be unavoidable.
No decision on the use of the vaccines will be made until the National Immunisation Advisory Committee (Niac) issues advice, the chief medical officer has said.