The gap between completion of a primary schedule of Covid-19 vaccination and a booster dose will be reduced to three months from six months, Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly has said.
The news comes as the Government looks to speed up the booster programme amid concerns over the Omicron variant.
The recommendations were made by the National Immunisation Advisory Committee (Niac) to chief medical officer Dr Tony Holohan, who has endorsed these recommendations.
A fourth dose of an mRNA vaccine, no sooner than three months after a third vaccine, has also been recommended for those who are immunocompromised and for whom a third dose had been previously recommended as part of an extended vaccine schedule.
Booster vaccines will continue to be offered in the priority order previously recommended.
Niac have also recommended that those individuals who have received one dose of a two-dose primary vaccine schedule and who subsequently have a confirmed Covid infection should complete their primary vaccination course four weeks after diagnosis or onset of symptoms.
Mr Donnelly said: “I welcome this update to our booster vaccination programme, and I would like to sincerely thank all of the members of the Niac for their continued work in support of Ireland’s Covid-19 vaccination programme.
“Decreasing the interval for booster doses is an important step given Ireland’s current epidemiological situation and the increasing concern we have about the spread of the Omicron variant. This step should serve to reduce serve disease, hospitalisation and deaths, as well as having an impact on infection rates.
“Vaccination, along with our continued adherence to the public health advice offer the best protection we have against the current wave of infection driven by the Delta variant, and as we wait further evidence relating to the impact the Omicron variant may have."
The booster rollout has been beset by difficulties, with Taoiseach Micheál Martin warning earlier in the week that 215,000 appointments had been missed in a fortnight.
But he also had to apologise to people who were turned away from walk-in centres that could not meet the demand from the public.
Some centres saw waiting times of over two-and-a-half hours, while others were forced to turn people away.
Speaking earlier today, Minister for Higher Education Simon Harris said: “I know a lot of people are worried at the moment about walk-ins and queues and the likes, I mean it is important to bring this back to first principles.
“If you’re eligible for a booster vaccine, you will receive an appointment and the walk-in centres are an additional way we’re opening all channels to try and get as many people boosted as possible.”
A further 4,688 cases of Covid-19 were confirmed in the State today. As of 8am today, 518 Covid-19 patients are hospitalised, of which 108 are in intensive care units.