Minister for Higher Education Simon Harris said the Government was “very eager” to begin Covid booster vaccines for people in their 40s.
Mr Harris said work was still ongoing on how the rollout will be managed but “we should boost the booster campaign and everything that possibly can be done to achieve that will be done”.
According to a report in The Irish Times, the Government hopes vaccinations for those aged 40-49 can start before Christmas but depends on confirmation from the HSE.
Mr Harris' comments come as the Department of Health confirmed a further 4,667 cases of the virus in the Republic.
As of Sunday morning, there were 504 patients in hospitals with the disease, with 109 in intensive care units.
It was also confirmed that four additional cases of the Omicron variant have been detected in Ireland following genomic sequencing.
Speaking on RTÉ’s The Week in Politics, Mr Harris said: “We’re on target to have 1.5 million people receive their booster by Christmas, and this week we’ll see an updated roadmap on boosters published by the Department of Health.”
Mr Harris was asked if the Government was trying to get boosters for people in their 40s, and first-dose vaccines for children, done between Christmas and New Year.
He said: “I want to wait until we have the plan, but I think we’re very eager to move ahead with people above the age of 40 – but it’s very important that we check how that can be operationalised best.”
Mr Harris said there were also plans for a vaccine programme for children.
“At the moment the booster campaign is open to everybody over the age of 50.
“We’d like to see if we can be more ambitious in that regard obviously because it is a race between the Omicron variant and the booster”.
Third dose benefits
Mr Harris said the Government was continuing to learn “an awful lot about this new variant” and there was “extremely encouraging” news about the benefit of a third dose.
“So getting this done as quickly as possible is a priority for Government and expect very significant developments this week.”
He said it was the Government’s intention to keep schools open when asked if Omicron could force their closure.
“Nobody can guarantee anything in relation to this virus. That’s not the same as anybody speculating about schools,” he said.
“The intention is that our schools and indeed all of our education will remain on site. That is in line with the public health advice”.