The European Medicines Agency has recommended two swine flu vaccines for approval, clearing the way for vaccination programmes to start within weeks.

The Agency’s expert committee on new drugs said it gave a green light to the first H1N1 swine flu vaccines from GlaxoSmithKline and Novartis, called Pandemrix and Focetria.

Half of the Irish orders are for the GlaxoSmithkline vaccine Pandemerix, and a small quantity of the vaccine is already here.

The shots will now go for final approval from the European Commission, a process that is expected to take ten to 20 days under the accelerated regulatory system developed for pandemic vaccines.

It will then be up to the Irish Medicines Board to make a decision on licensing the vaccines for use here.

The first group to be offered vaccination will be people in at-risk groups and staff working in health and essential services.