A further 1,120 cases of Covid-19 were reported in the State on Tuesday evening.
There are 142 people in hospital with the virus, of whom 27 are in ICU.
Speaking on Tuesday, chief medical officer Dr Tony Holohan said: “Almost 70 per cent of our population is now fully vaccinated and today the vaccination programme has been extended to 12-15 year olds who will also be able to register for an mRNA vaccine.
"Following advice from the National Immunisation Advisory Committee [Niac], which has been approved by Government, I encourage parents and guardians of those aged 12-15 years of age to register them for a vaccination as soon as the opportunity arises.
“The vaccination programme has received high uptake to date. I strongly urge anyone eligible to register for a vaccine to do so as soon as possible.”
Covid-19 vaccine registration will begin today for people aged 16 and 17, the Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly earlier announced.
“It’s important that we continue to get as many of our population vaccinated as soon as vaccines are available and following the safety advice of our experts,” said Mr Donnelly.
In Northern Ireland, three more deaths linked to the virus were reported on Tuesday, bringing the total death toll since the start of the pandemic to 2,173. A further 1,473 cases of the virus have been identified, bringing the overall number of positive cases since the outbreak began to 151,096.
As hospitals warned of pressure from increased admissions, appealing for off-duty staff to turn up, it was confirmed there are 243 patients on beds with the disease – a 17 per cent rise on Monday’s figure. Of those, 29 are in intensive care.
Stormont Minister for Health Robin Swann said further uptake in the vaccination programme would make a “decisive difference” in preventing more hospitalisations and serious illness.
“Cases have continued to rise over recent weeks and we are now also beginning to see the pressures mounting on our hospitals, with increasing demand for intensive care beds – albeit at a lower rate, thanks to the effectiveness of our vaccination programme,” he said.
Mr Swann also announced that the Moderna vaccine is to be made initially available at 16 pharmacies in the region, for those eligible over the age of 18.
Pharmacies have already administered more than 115,000 doses of the AstraZeneca jab.
Back to school plans for the Republic are set to come before the Cabinet today, with Minister for Education Norma Foley saying schools will reopen fully from late August and early September.
The reopening plan includes details on the outcome of antigen testing pilots and a scheme to purchase CO2 monitors. These can measure the level of carbon dioxide in a room, which can indicate when windows and doors need to be opened to enable better ventilation.
The latest plan will allow schools to “draw down” CO2 monitors and the Minister said she was confident there would be enough monitors for all schools by the start of the new school year.
Capacity limits on school transport services will also remain in place and an enhanced public-awareness campaign has also been designed.
Ms Foley said there was ongoing engagement between her department and public health officials on the matter, but all schools were set to reopen.
The safe operation of the Leaving Certificate exams and enhanced summer camps indicated that the safe operation of education could be maintained, said the Minister.
In relation to vaccines for children, Ms Foley said the “expertise” lay with the National Immunisation Advisory Committee from which her department would take guidance.
In a related development two teaching unions have said their members will return to schools in August and September if that is in accordance with public health advice.