Pharmacists have welcomed a Department of Health decision to allow them to provide a vaccination service outside their premises.

Irish Pharmacy Union Secretary General Darragh O'Loughlin said pharmacies had been calling for this change for many years.

"While we do not yet have a vaccine against Covid-19, we do against flu, and we need to encourage uptake of this vaccine by making it as easy as possible for those most at risk to access it.

"Broadening the locations where pharmacists can vaccinate will significantly increase uptake and will help build immunity from flu among the population."

Mr O'Loughlin thanked Minister of Health Stephen Donnelly for listening to pharmacists and acting on this issue.

"We need to do all we can to keep people safe from the flu and protect our health system from its impact.

"This is more important this year than ever before, as we face into a winter of dealing with two highly infectious and highly dangerous diseases – influenza and Covid-19."

He added: "Research conducted by iReach on behalf of the IPU revealed that fewer than half of all adults (48%) have ever received a flu vaccination. This year, we need to ensure we have the highest possible uptake of the vaccine."

The new guidelines are expected to allow pharmacists to administer the flu vaccine in a person's home or car as well as childcare facilities and schools.

Last month, Health Service Executive Chief Executive Paul Reid said the free flu vaccine will be available for almost two million people this winter with older people and vulnerable groups prioritised for vaccination.

A nasal spray vaccination for children, from ages two to 12 years, will also be made available free of charge.