Covid-19 booster vaccines available to all aged 16 and over from Sunday

Further 20,110 cases confirmed on Friday as number in hospital rises to 682

Booster doses of Covid-19 vaccines will be available to all eligible people aged 16 and over from Sunday, Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly has confirmed.

The acceleration of the booster rollout means anyone who received their last vaccine dose more than three months ago, and has not had Covid-19 since, can now seek a booster. The wider rollout of boosters had not been scheduled to begin until January 10th.

Those who have had Covid-19 are advised to wait until three months after they tested positive to receive their next vaccine dose. People aged 16-29 will receive the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine as a booster. If you are over 30, you will get either the Pfizer or Moderna shots, in line with the National Immunisation Advisory Committee’s recommendations.

Hospital Report

The Department of Health said that from January 2nd vaccination centres would commence appointment-based clinics for those aged under 30 years in designated centres. Initial appointments will be available for booking from Friday evening.


It said in a statement “additional centres would be offering this service over the coming week”.

“GPs will continue to vaccinate down through the age groups, by appointment. Pharmacies will continue to vaccinate people by appointment.”

An appointment for a booster vaccine can also be booked on the HSE website.

The acceleration of the booster rollout comes after 20,110 new coronavirus cases were confirmed by the department on Friday.

The number of Covid patients in hospital increased by 63 in the last 24 hours to 682.

A record number of daily cases – 20,554 – was recorded on Thursday, though the chief medical officer said capacity issues in the testing system means the actual number may be in excess of 30,000.

The number of people in hospital with Covid-19 jumped by 63 between Thursday and Friday – from 619 to 682. The figure was 378 six days ago.

There are 86 Covid patients being treated in intensive care (ICU).


Speaking after the updated daily case figure was released Dr Tony Holohan said: "Once again, we are reporting another very high number of confirmed cases of Covid-19 in Ireland.

Dr Holohan said the number of people being hospitalised with Covid-19 every day was now exceeding 100 per day – earlier in December that figure had been 50 to 60 per day – while Prof Philip Nolan from the National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet) said the rate at which Covid hospitalisations are increasing is concerning.

Although the impact of Omicron on each individual was likely to be less than Delta, Dr Holohan said, the higher level of transmission would mean more pressure on the hospital system.

Prof Nolan, chairman of Nphet’s epidemiological modelling advisory group, said although ICU numbers are stable now, it would be “at least another week before we fully understand how this wave of infection will translate into severe outcomes”.

The chief medical officer also said the situation over reopening schools next week would remain under review, but at present the plan is to reopen.

He said that in December the case numbers for school-age groups had been falling and he was not aware of any other country that had moved to close schools.


“We keep that whole situation under review, but as things stand at the moment that’s our current advice [that schools reopen]. We’re doing everything we can to protect the most important public services that we have.”

Prof Nolan said the seven-day average of new Covid cases is more than 11,000 per day and the figure is rising rapidly. He said case counts would be about 40 per cent higher than what is being reported if the testing system could keep up with the pace of infections – echoing Dr Holohan’s comments.

“This is the largest wave of infection we have ever faced, but vaccines work and the vast majority of infections are not progressing to severe disease,” he said in a series of tweets.

“This is a time for the greatest possible caution. Get your booster vaccination, stay safe, protect each other, limit social contacts to a minimum and delay the spread of Omicron in the coming days and weeks.”

Dr Holohan acknowledged the “official” Government advice at present was that up to four family groups could gather in one house but said people should not do that. He said it is not safe and it was important for people to hear that message.

Testing issues

On capacity issues in the Covid testing system, Dr Holohan said if the Omicron surge continues then “it may well be the case” that the current advice on antigen testing may need to change.

The Department of Health announced significant changes to an overwhelmed Covid-19 testing system on Thursday night, with an aim to free up about 50 per cent capacity for PCR tests for older people.

The new rules will see those aged between four and 39 who show symptoms of the disease being asked to self-isolate while undertaking regular antigen tests at home and only seek a PCR test if an antigen test returns a positive result.

Dr Holohan said that “further measures” might have to be taken if PCR testing capacity remained under strain. He emphasised the importance of PCR testing for social welfare benefits and possibly in the future in relation to the Covid Travel Pass.

The testing changes come into effect from Monday and are due to “very large volumes of disease now being experienced and to ensure best use of available testing capacity”, the department said.

New isolation rules are also being introduced so that those who contract Covid-19 and who have received a vaccine booster at least seven days previously – or those who are double-vaccinated and had the disease – only have to isolate for seven days instead of 10.

Meanwhile, in Northern Ireland a record daily total of 7,215 positive Covid-19 cases have been notified by its Department of Health.

One further patient who had previously tested positive for the virus has died.

On Friday morning, there were 314 Covid-19 patients in hospital, of whom 34 were in intensive care.

New rules reducing the self-isolation period for confirmed Covid-19 cases from 10 to seven days, subject to a negative lateral flow test on day six and a second negative test taken at least 24 hours later on day seven, came into effect in the North on Friday. – Additional reporting: PA