Ireland's Catholic bishops have urged everyone to support the vaccination programmes in the Republic and Northern Ireland.
The bishops also called on the Department of Health and public health authorities "to make vaccines available to carers in the Republic of Ireland as a matter of priority and to priests who are chaplains to nursing care facilities and who preside at funerals".
In a statement they noted how many people both North and South have already received the vaccine and particularly welcomed the fact that all residents and staff of nursing care facilities have been vaccinated.
"At present the group prioritised in the Republic of Ireland to receive the vaccine in the coming weeks are those over 70 years of age while in Northern Ireland it is those over 65 years of age along with others who are clinically vulnerable.
“We encourage all parishes and Church personnel to promote this programme and to encourage elderly parishioners, relatives and neighbours to avail of the opportunity to protect their health and the health of the whole community,” they said.
“The development and provision of the vaccines is already providing reassurance for those who are most vulnerable to the virus and will help us to return to normality in terms of work, education, religious practice, and sporting and leisure activities as soon as possible,” they said.
Last December the bishops said that “safe and effective vaccination is an essential aspect of the prevention of disease” and encouraged Catholics to support the programme of vaccination “not only for their own good, but for the protection of life and the health of those who are vulnerable and for the common good of humanity”.
The bishops also recalled how the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith had made a similar call to all Catholics then.