People who get the Covid-19 vaccine will be given “evidence” that they have had it, Tánaiste Leo Varadkar told the Dáil on Thursday.
Mr Varadkar said the first people in Ireland will receive the Covid-19 vaccination before the end of the year. However, he said he could not confirm the exact dates for people to get the jab “but we do expect the first people in Ireland to be vaccinated before the new year”.
He told Labour leader Alan Kelly that “they will be given evidence of the fact that they have the vaccine but I can’t tell you exactly what form”.
Mr Kelly said there were “huge moral, legal and ethical issues” involved in the certification and if these would be required for people who wanted to attend big events.
Earlier, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen announced that vaccinations would start in the European Union on December 27th.
“On 27, 28 and 29 December vaccination will start across the EU,” she wrote on Twitter. “It’s Europe’s moment.”
Approval for the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is expected to be completed before Christmas after the European Medicines Agency brought forward the date of a key meeting.
A second vaccine by Moderna is expected to be approved in early January.
The EU had hoped to co-ordinate vaccinations to start simultaneously throughout the bloc, but some countries are capable of organising rollout more quickly than others.
The chair of Ireland’s Covid-19 vaccine taskforce Prof MacCraith confirmed on Wednesday that the current expectation is that several “shippers” of the Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine would be arriving in the State before the end of the year, each containing some 5,000 doses.
While he said there wasn’t “absolute confirmation” on the numbers, when pushed by Sinn Féin health spokesman David Cullinane, he said that before the end of the calendar year it is expected “small multiples” of that number would be delivered.
“If you take that 4,875 (doses) per shipper, and we would expect a small number of shippers. It may be one, it may be two. We don’t know exactly that yet, it hasn’t been confirmed”.
Prof MacCraith told the committee that they did not have firm information beyond that there is likely to be a small supply of vaccines delivered before the end of December.
He said nursing home residents and staff could be vaccinated by the mid to late February, according to provisional modelling.
Prof MacCraith told the Oireachtas health committee that while this was not a goal or target modelling had been undertaken of different rates of vaccine arrival, staff available to administer the vaccines, and the number of people in residential care settings in the State - a category which includes nursing homes.
He said there are almost 600 such facilities in the country, with some 78,000 residents and staff living within them.
“If you look at those numbers, and you look at that initial cohort of vaccinators, you can start to think that that cohort might complete their vaccinations by mid-to-late February, for example,” he told Fine Gael TD Colm Burke, emphasising that this in turn would be dependent on the numbers of vaccines arriving.