Pharmacists have said they have been "sidelined" from the Covid-19 vaccination programme, for people aged over 70.

The Irish Pharmacy Union said it had been given no written explanation as to why vaccination of patients over 70 is to be done exclusively by GPs.

IPU Secretary General Darragh O'Loughlin said there was no clinical reason for it.

"Pharmacists have safely vaccinated over 70s for the flu every year for a decade", he said.

Mr O' Loughlin also said the IPU had been given no information on when pharmacists and their teams will be vaccinated for Covid-19, despite being a core part of the National Covid-19 Vaccination Programme.

He said that at this stage pharmacists feel they have been strung along with platitudes and vague assurances and their goodwill is rapidly eroding.

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Yesterday, it was announced that GPs will be involved in the administration of the AstraZeneca vaccine from mid-February, when the community vaccination programme begins for those aged 85 and older first, followed by those aged 80-84, 75-79 and 70-74.

It is understood that Ireland expects to get around 200,000 doses of the AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine in February, if it is approved, instead of around 230,000 doses that were anticipated.

For the first half of March, the delivery is expected to be significantly lower than planned for, at around 100,000 doses.

No detail is available at this point on the scale of further deliveries in March.