Covid-19 booster vaccinations against the Omicron variant became available to vulnerable sections of population from Monday.
People aged over 65 and those with a weak immune system have been invited to receive their next Covid-19 booster vaccination, with boosters now having been adapted to take account of Omicron variants.
Three bivalent mRNA Covid-19 vaccines adapted to Omicron variants have been recommended for use for booster vaccination by the the National Immunisation Advisory Committee (NIAC), following approval by the European Medicines Agency, the HSE said.
The booster vaccines will be administered alongside the rollout of the seasonal flu vaccine which is free to recommended groups. Those aged over 65, healthcare workers, children aged 2 to 17 years, pregnant women and those with long-term medical conditions are recommended to receive the flu vaccine.
Both flu and Covid-19 vaccines will be available at participating GPs and pharmacies and can be administered at the same time.
There are fears that a so-called “twindemic” of seasonal flu and Covid-19 will overwhelm the health service this winter.
Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly said the flu vaccine offers protection ahead of “what we expect will be a difficult winter in our hospitals”.
He also said vaccination against Covid-19 remains the “greatest protection from severe disease and hospitalisation in the months ahead”.
“Bivalent vaccines adapted to Omicron variants are in use as boosters from today,” he said on Monday.
HSE specialist in public health medicine Dr Aparna Keegan said it is “very important” that all those invited for both vaccines should take them.
From October 17th, the children’s nasal spray flu vaccine will be available free for all children (aged 2-17) from GPs and pharmacies.
For children aged 5 to 11 who have not had their primary Covid-19 vaccination, and for those with a weak immune system and due a booster dose, appointments are available at HSE vaccination centres by making an appointment on hse.ie.
Fifteen vaccination centres across the country will continue to provide Covid-19 primary vaccines and 2nd and 3rd booster does this winter.
The most up-to-date Covid-19 figures show the levels of Covid-19 in the community remains low. There were 1,648 cases in the seven days to September 26th, an average of 235 a day.