People aged over 65 will be offered a third booster dose of Covid-19 vaccine, following new recommendations made by the National Immunisation Advisory Committee.
he advice has been endorsed by the interim Chief Medical Officer Professor Breda Smyth and accepted by Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly.
NIAC has also recommended that a second booster dose be offered to people aged between 50 and 64, and to people in the 12-49 age group who have underlying medical conditions or who are residents of long term care facilities.
Healthcare workers and pregnant women will also be offered a second MRNA booster vaccine.
As well as the over 65s, NIAC has also recommended that a third dose be offered to immunocompromised people who are aged between 12 and 64.
A first MRNA booster dose will also be available for immunocompromised children between 5 and 11 years of age.
NIAC has recommended that Covid vaccines can be given at the same time as the flu vaccine and that booster doses should be given four months after a previous dose or a previous Covid infection.
A statement from the Department of Health said that a booster dose after infection has been shown to provide additional protection and it is recommended that people get and complete their primary vaccine course and booster shots if they have not already done so.
The changes to the vaccination programme were welcomed by Mr Donnelly, who said that evidence suggests a second booster dose may reduce infection rates, which would benefit healthcare workers and help sustain the healthcare system into the winter.
Prof Smyth said: "There is clear evidence that the Omicron variant has been less severe than previous variants due to the high uptake of vaccines. While we have seen a recent surge in infections, this has thankfully not translated into the same pressure on our hospitals and people getting severely unwell. Covid-19 vaccines have been remarkably effective in this regard."