The overhaul of the vaccine categories follows recommendations from NIAC.
THE GOVERNMENT HAS signed off on an overhaul of the current vaccination grouping system, instead sorting by age once vulnerable people are vaccinated.
The Cabinet today agreed a number of measures to ease certain Covid-19 restrictions on a phased basis in April.
Following recommendations from the National Immunisation Advisory Committee (NIAC), the Cabinet also agreed to change the current vaccine allocation groups.
Once everyone aged over 70, those with underlying health conditions and vulnerable groups are vaccinated, people will begin to receive vaccines on the basis of age.
Under the current provisional groups, the rollout progressed by job category such as essential workers and ‘people in occupations important to the functioning of society’, alongside age categories.
The cohorts will now be divided into different age categories once high-risk people have been vaccinated.
The Taoiseach said NIAC made “clear that age, from a clinical perspective, is the better way” to progress the vaccine rollout from there.
“It also will accelerate and simplify the rollout of the vaccination programme from an operational perspective,” Martin added.
“Older age cohorts in different professions will get vaccinated more quickly than they might have.”
He said the rationale from NIAC was clear and “quite strong”. He also said the original programme could have been delayed as it was difficult to identify people in the various job groups.
The deputy Chief Medical Officer Dr Ronan Glynn said this change will result in those at most risk of severe outcomes or death receiving vaccines as soon as possible.
He said this is the “base upon which” NIAC issued its most recent set of recommendations.
This change has been criticised by various groups, including the Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors which said it shows a “scant regard for the unique and high-risk job that Gardaí do”.
General secretary Antoinette Cunningham said: “We are once again appealing to the Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly to consider the role Gardaí play in policing COVID-19 and we will also be seeking a meeting with him and An Taoiseach.”
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The Irish National Teachers’ Organisation said earlier this evening that this change abandons “carefully considered priority groups who are working on the frontline”.
“There has been zero consultation or notification of this drastic change which is certain to affect our members’ confidence about safety at work,” an INTO statement said.
Labour Party leader Alan Kelly has called for greater transparency around the vaccination programme.
“The vaccination programme is now being overhauled after many problems, but we still don’t know who is in charge and it’s still not too late to appoint a designated Minister for Vaccines,” Kelly said in a statement.
“There are a lot of frontline essential workers in education, childcare, policing and retail who will be concerned that they no longer have any priority under the vaccination programme.”