By Cate McCurry, PA
Taoiseach Micheál Martin has said a website allowing people to register for a Covid-19 vaccine will available from the third week in April.
The Taoiseach also defended a move to overhaul the vaccination priority list, saying the most vulnerable in society will get their jabs as “fast as possible”.
Mr Martin told the Dáil that the biggest factor in mortality and severe illness from Covid-19 is age.
The Government on Tuesday announced changes to the vaccination rollout plan once the most vulnerable and people over 70 have been inoculated.
The decision has been widely criticised, particularly by teaching unions and the Garda representative union.
The Taoiseach said that once those most at risk have been vaccinated, the priority list will be abandoned and will instead proceed based on age.
This means that key workers in essential jobs and the education sector who cannot avoid a high risk of exposure to the virus will lose vaccine prioritisation.
Mr Martin said the new system will allow older teachers and older key workers to be vaccinated “much more quickly”.
“The National Immunisation Advisory Committee and Nphet are saying that the biggest factor in mortality and in severe illness arising from Covid is the age,” he said.
“The change that has been announced is about getting the most vulnerable in our society vaccinated as fast as we possibly can, and not have any barriers or obstacles in the way of getting mass vaccinations done.”
There will be intense vaccination during the summer months
He also said the Government plans to vaccinate 80 per cent of the adult population by the end of June.
“That is the target and, in fact, the European Union have a figure of 70 per cent that they’re hoping, on average, would be fully vaccinated by the end of July,” Mr Martin said.
“There will be intense vaccination during the summer months.”
Meanwhile, Labour leader Alan Kelly queried why the Government made a deal with Beacon Hospital to administer vaccines as part of the state programme.
The private hospital in Dublin has been at the centre of controversy after it emerged that it used spare jabs to vaccinate teachers from an exclusive school.
The hospital has launched an independent investigation.
Coronavirus vaccine operations have also been suspended by the Government.
The old private school line of whatever you want whenever you want it was in play again at the #beaconhospital
Why did we use the Beacon Hospital for vaccinations and who decided it? Who made the decision - @alankellylabour asks the Taoiseach pic.twitter.com/lHX9kE5hC8
— The Labour Party (@labour) March 31, 2021
Mr Kelly said: “The old private school line of access to whatever you want, whenever you want was at play again.
“The Beacon got access to vaccinations fairly early on in relation to vaccinating some of their own staff above some who should have been prioritised in January.
“Then there was the fact that they wouldn’t sign up to the national plan for ICU.”
Mr Martin said the Beacon Hospital was carrying out vaccinations “quickly and effectively”.