More than 50,000 children aged 12-15 have been registered to receive the Covid-19 vaccine, according to the Health Service Executive (HSE).
Registration for 12- to 15-year-olds opened overnight and the first vaccinations of this age group are expected to be administered in the coming days. The majority of registrations came through the HSE’s online portal.
The overall vaccination programme is in "the final leg," according to HSE chief executive Paul Reid, with 90 per cent of adults having received at least one dose and 80 per cent fully vaccinated.
But Mr Reid said Ireland remained in a period of "sustained threat" from Covid-19, with case numbers rising. Cases increased 30 per cent last week, compared with 2 per cent the previous week.
Last week, there were four Covid-19 outbreaks in nursing homes and 11 in hospitals.
Most in nursing homes involved small numbers of cases, with almost no hospital admissions, according to Liam Woods, HSE national director for acute operations.
Three hospitals – Tallaght, Sligo and Limerick – account for 70 per cent of patients and staff affected, he said.
More than 60 per cent of 16-17 year-olds and more than 80 per cent of those in the 18-29 year range are at least partially vaccinated.
Up to 80 per cent of Covid-19 patients in intensive care units (ICU) are not fully vaccinated, Mr Reid said. Of the most recent 150 deaths linked to the virus, 26 had received two vaccine doses.
By age group, 60 per cent of hospitalised cases were over 50 years of age; 33 per cent were aged between 19 and 49; and 7 per cent were 18 or under.
In ICU, 58 per cent were over 50 and 48 per cent were aged between 19 and 49. There were no admissions of children to ICU.
The average length of stay in hospital was 6.5 days and the average patient age was 41. The average length of stay in ICU was 18 days.
Dr Lucy Jessop, director of the national immunisation office, said the overall risk to healthy under-19s from Covid-19 is low, with the risk of hospitalisation for a child without an underlying condition less than 1 per 100,000. Seven out of every 10 children in hospital with the virus have chronic health diseases.
But children have also been affected indirectly by Covid-19 in their education and social interactions, she pointed out, and have to self-isolate if they test positive.
Some 51 per cent of hospitalised cases were not vaccinated, compared with 25 per cent of the population which is not vaccinated, Mr Reid told a media briefing.
In ICU, 58 per cent of cases were not fully vaccinated, 18 per cent were partially vaccinated and 24 per cent were fully vaccinated.
Between April and August, 169 people were admitted to ICU. Of these, 36 had received one or two doses of vaccinated. Just six were fully protected, having received two doses at least two weeks earlier.
Of 203 patients with Covid-19 in hospital, 92 per cent were being treated for the disease and 8 per cent were asymptotic and not infectious.
Of 150 deaths tracked since April, 62 involved people who had received one dose of vaccine and seven were people who had received two doses, at least two weeks earlier.
Some 228,000 people received a vaccine dose last week and 200,000 are expected to be administered one this week and next.
Officials said 14 out of 19 maternity hospitals will be compliant with HSE visiting guidelines by this week, but for some sites physical limitations make compliance difficult.
Mr Reid said he understood the legitimate safety concerns the Rotunda hospital had in relation to infrastructure.
Niamh O’Beirne, national lead for testing, said positivity was running at 14 per cent in the community and up to 30 per cent in some test centres last week.
Almost half of close contacts were fully vaccinated, she said.