The further acceleration of the booster programme was announced as 7,411 new Covid cases were confirmed this evening, one of the highest caseloads since the pandemic began.
In a statement this evening, Stephen Donnelly said that for people aged 30 to 39 and those who received the Janssen vaccine (aged 16 to 29) will be able to get their booster from next Wednesday, January 29.
All remaining age groups will then be able to get their booster by January 10.
“All remaining age groups will be opened up by the 10th of January. A super national effort,” he said.
It comes as the HSE is set to publish its booster rollout plan for people in their 20s and 30s in the coming days.
Up to Thursday, 1.87m boosters and third doses were administered, according to Professor Brian MacCraith, head of the vaccine taskforce.
He also said that 109,000 vaccine doses administered yesterday, 106,000 of these were boosters.
In a statement this evening, the Department of Health said all age groups will be eligible to receive a booster by January 10, in parallel with all children aged 5 -11 years being offered their first jab.
Minister Donnelly said: “For most children Covid-19 is a mild illness which will resolve. However, a small minority of children will have more serious disease, and some may experience long-term consequences of Covid-19 infection, including for example long Covid.”
He said this was why they were being prioritised, adding: “The necessary public health measures have disrupted the various developmental opportunities that our children engage in with their peers. All of these factors have informed this decision to accelerate Ireland’s Covid-19 vaccination programme.”
He added: “Vaccination offers an extra level of protection for all of us, and I would encourage parents to engage with the trusted health advice available on www.hse.ie, and with your own family clinician if you have any concerns about bringing your child for this vaccine. I would also encourage you to discuss this update to our vaccination programme with your child and ensure that they are aware that vaccination will soon be available to them.”
As of 8am this morning, there were 390 people in hospital with the virus, the lowest count since October 10. There were 98 people in ICU with Covid-19 this afternoon, the lowest figure since November 12.
Chief medical officer Dr Tony Holohan said the Omicron variant now accounted for almost three quarters of cases in Ireland, meaning today’s high numbers, which are among the highest recorded so far in the pandemic, were not unexpected.
"We expect to see a rapid increase in case figures over the coming short period of time,” he said.
“It is imperative that all of us, to the greatest extent possible, make every effort we can in the next two to three weeks to only meet with members of our own households.
"Consider you plans over the Christmas period and into the early part of the New Year and try to keep your contacts as low as possible.”
He added that if someone in your household receives a “detected” or “positive” test result either via a PCR test or an antigen test, then all members of the household should restrict their movements and not attend work or socialise with others.
"Even though we recognise that it is very difficult at this time of year to stay away from loved ones, it is really important that anyone who receives confirmation of a confirmed Covid-19 infection self-isolate for ten days,” he said.
"If you are identified as a close contact and have received a booster dose of Covid-19 vaccine, then you should restrict your movements for five days. If you have not yet been boosted, you should restrict your movements for ten days.”
Dr Holohan added that those who have not yet received a booster vaccine dose should “take every measure you can to protect yourself until you are eligible to receive it”.
He added that those who have recently arrived in Ireland from overseas should take an antigen test for the following five days and must get a PCR if they experience symptoms.
Test positivity and Covid-19 incidence is now growing across all adult age groups due to the Omicron variant, which is “spreading rapidly” across people aged 16-64, according to Professor Philip Nolan.
A report released by the UK’s Health Security Agency today shows that people are less likely to attend hospital or be admitted due to infection with the Omicron variant, when compared to the previously dominant delta variant.
The findings, which are preliminary, show that someone with Omicron is estimated to be as much as 45pc less likely to attend A&E compared with Delta, and as much as 70pc less likely to be admitted to hospital.
Taoiseach Michael Martin today said that half of all adults have received a Covid-19 booster as the total number of third doses administered has reached 1.87m people as of Wednesday.
“Almost half (49.9pc) of the adult population have now received a booster or third dose.
“That’s 37.4pc of the total population. Great work by staff and volunteers in our vaccine centres, GPs and pharmacists,” Mr Martin wrote on Twitter.
A record 109,000 doses were administered on Wednesday, of which 106,000 were boosters.