DUBLIN (Reuters) – Ireland will give 18- to 34-year-olds the option of receiving a COVID-19 vaccine one to two months earlier than scheduled in a bid to slow the spread of the Delta variant of the disease and resume a delayed reopening of the economy.
Ireland had planned to resume indoor drinking and eating in bars and restaurants from Monday but announced a slowdown of the easing of restrictions this week due to concerns about the Delta variant, which now accounts for around 70% of new cases.
Almost 45% of Ireland’s 3.7 million adult population have been fully vaccinated and 65% have received their first of two doses. The health service has been working its way down the age groups and began to vaccinate 35- to 39-year-olds in the last week.
Ireland’s lifting of restrictions on giving the AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson vaccines to younger people means those aged 18 to 34 can choose to receive one of those shots from Monday, Health Minister Stephen Donnelly said.
“We now have a significant acceleration of the vaccine programme,” Donnelly told parliament, adding that Ireland should receive 205,000 to 210,000 Johnson & Johnson shots and at least 100,000 AstraZeneca vaccines that can be given to that age group this month.
“To be able to pull forward a huge number of people is incredibly valuable and is really going to help us in protecting our population from the Delta surge that we know is coming.”
Following the delay in the reopening, the government instead intends to restrict indoor drinking and dining to those who are fully vaccinated or who have previously been infected, with a plan to be put in place by July 19.
(Reporting by Padraic Halpin; Editing by Giles Elgood)