Cabinet publishes list of age groups and workers who will get Covid-19 vaccine first

‘Key workers’ will be among first to be vaccinated, though category has to be refined

The Government this morning considered the wider categories for inclusion in vaccination programme. Photograph: Getty

Ministers have confirmed that those aged over 65 and in long-term care, frontline healthcare workers in direct patient contact (including vaccinators) and those aged over 70 will be the first to receive the Covid-19 vaccine.

The Cabinet this morning considered wider categories for inclusion in the vaccination programme and according to a list published this afternoon, these cohorts will be followed by other healthcare workers and then those aged 65 to 69 with medical conditions.

Healthcare workers who are not in direct patient contact, as well as the over 65s with medical conditions that put them at risk of severe disease, are among those prioritised next for vaccination, once more pressing categories are immunised.

Following this, “key workers” will be vaccinated, although this category will be further refined, according to the Government list. It will include those “providing services essential to the vaccination programme (e.g. logistical support)”. An earlier draft has been changed but it had said for those “providing services essential to societal and economic activity”.


The next category will be those aged between 18 to 64 with medical conditions which put them at higher risk of disease, followed by residents of long term care facilities in this age cohort.

Once those groups are vaccinated, focus will switch to 18 to 64-year-olds living in crowded accommodation where self-isolation and social distancing is difficult to maintain, then key workers in essential jobs who “cannot avoid a high risk of exposure”, including workers in the food supply system as well as public and commercial transport sectors.

The following category will be those who are essential to education and face disease exposure, such as primary and second level school staff, childcare workers and school bus drivers.

Then those aged 55 to 64 will be inoculated, followed by those in occupations “important to the functioning of society” - for example those working in third level institutions, entertainment and other industries where protective measures can be followed without much difficulty.

Then the 18 to 54 year olds, who did not have access to the vaccine in prior phases will be next, before finally, children, adolescents up to 18 and pregnant women will be immunised, “if evidence demonstrates safety and efficacy”.

Government sources have indicated that the list is a “living document” and may be subject to change based on how effective different vaccines among different groups in the wider population.

It has not been decided if each immunisation will be completed in each group before the programme moves on to the next one, or if there may be some overlap.

Vaccine buddy

Tadhg Daly, chief executive of Nursing Homes Ireland, the representative group for private nursing home owners, welcomed nursing home residents and staff being prioritised for the first Covid-19 vaccines given that residents of care homes faced “the greatest risk” from the virus.

“The challenge for us now is to ensure a coordinated approach between ourselves and the HSE, which will be rolling out the inoculation, and we hope to get further clarity on that,” he said.

Mr Daly said that he still hoped that NHI’s proposal for a “vaccine buddy” - where a relative or friend of a nursing home resident would be inoculated along with the resident to help their wellbeing with regular visits - would be kept on the agenda as an option.

“What we want to achieve is to get back to relative normality on visiting,” he said.

The NHI said the full roll-out of the vaccines would take some time and the vaccine buddy scheme “presents an opportunity for enhanced contact between residents and family.”

Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly said today that the measure was not recommended by the National Immunisation Advisory Committee that advised on the priority list for vaccines.

“I think it is a very nice idea and I think it comes from a very good place because obviously it would help,” he said.

Mr Donnelly said that the Government was still awaiting data from the European Medicines Agency on the transmissibility of the virus by people who have been vaccinated and that it could be “high risk” to have people going into nursing homes.

“While they may be protected from getting very sick themselves from the vaccine, it is unclear how much other people in the nursing home will be protected in terms of transmissibility,” he told RTE’s News At One radio programme.

Jack Horgan-Jones

Jack Horgan-Jones

Jack Horgan-Jones is a Political Correspondent with The Irish Times

Simon Carswell

Simon Carswell

Simon Carswell is News Editor of The Irish Times