The Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors has said the Government must consider an occupational vaccine roll-out programme for frontline high-risk jobs to be run alongside the age-based vaccine programme. 

Speaking on RTÉ's This Week, AGSI General Secretary Antoinette Cunningham said it should not be a difficulty to get all gardaí vaccinated, adding that the "confrontational and high-risk job they do speaks for itself". 

Ms Cunningham said the AGSI cannot understand why the undertakings given to the association by the Minster for Justice, in that gardaí should be vaccinated as soon as possible, could not be adhered to. 

She said gardaí need a "proper" vaccination roll-out programme that runs in tandem with the current system.

Ms Cunningham said the Government is "reading the mood of the people wrong" in that most people want gardaí to be vaccinated early.

Speaking on the same programme, the General Secretary of the Irish National Teachers' Organisation said he believed the twin-track approach being proposed by the AGSI "could easily be rolled-out" as it was very easy to identify both teachers and gardaí.

"We don’t expect everybody to be done in two days ... but it would be possible to get through gardaí and teachers in four days, if we had the will," John Boyle said. 

Mr Boyle said previous promises to ensure teachers would be high in the queue to receive a vaccine were just that, rather than a serious commitment.  

He said teachers expected to be within the first 30% of people vaccinated, and as such, have been vaccinated by June. 

However, it now looks like some teachers and SNAs will have to wait until August or September for a vaccine. "We are not going to suffer that," he said. 

Mr Boyle said it represents a "big breach of trust and faith".

Asked if he expected a ballot for industrial action as a result of this, Mr Boyle said there "will be a lot of ire and frustration" at teaching conferences next week.

"The strategy of the three teachers' unions will be to make sure the Government does another U-turn on this, and comes up with a creative plan to make sure that the 30% of the population to be vaccinated first includes teachers... and other occupations that are at risk."

One-millionth vaccine dose to be administered in coming days

Up to Thursday 1 April, 893,375 Covid-19 vaccine doses had been administered, 636,963 first doses and 256,412 second doses.

This afternoon, head of the Health Service Executive Paul Reid thanked all those involved in vaccinations this weekend and said in a tweet "We're in a new phase".

Speaking earlier on RTÉ's This Week, Mr Reid said in the coming days, the one-millionth vaccine dose will have been administered.

Regarding calls from gardaí and teachers for an occupational vaccine roll-out alongside the age-based system, Mr Reid said the move was a Government policy decision driven by medical advice, and the HSE fully supported the age-based system. 

He said the vaccine roll-out was all about reducing illness, hospitalisations, and mortality, and that the way that was done was by first addressing the most vulnerable people, citing  National Immunisation Advisory Committee (NIAC) evidence that age is the biggest factor in vulnerability.

He said the change to an age-based system was backed by medical evidence, adding that age comparisons that NIAC have done show people aged 60-64 are five times more likely to be hospitalised than those aged 20-35.

He also said the move to an age-based system would be backed by GPs, adding that people will see the programme move "really widely" into the community in the coming weeks. 

"As we reach out into April and May what we’re going to continue to do is complete the programme for the over 70s, work through the high-risk medically vulnerable, we’ll then tackle the age group of 65-69, then we’ll start to move through the new prioritisation based on what NIAC have recommended," he said. 

Asked when he first knew there was a problem with the vaccine registration portal, Mr Reid said the vaccine programme here, like in every country, was based on high levels of trust. 

He said where there have been breaches in use of the portal, it has been a breach of trust, rather than a problem with the portal itself, adding that they have addressed this issue through improved validation processes.

"As we move toward the wider public, the portal will have different functionality. It will be clearly able to identify the person, because they will be giving, in advance, date of birth, and biographical data. The validation process will be stronger... it will be a very different system as we move out into the public," he said. 

He added: "Where breaches have happened... they’ve caused us as much frustration as the public."

He said that to date, the "vast vast majority" of people who have received doses did so without skipping the queue. 

Mr Reid said "there are most certainly some people" who have come through the vaccination process ahead of others when they should not have. 

Asked when the public as a whole will be able to book an appointment for a vaccine, Mr Reid said the registration portal will go live this month.

"They will then be scheduled for their vaccination appointment to a particular centre or location. They will then validate that data back through text or emails," he said.