The Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly has today accepted recommendations for the introduction of a new Covid-19 vaccine.

To be used in those aged 18 and older, Novavax's Covid-19 vaccine Nuvaxovid (known also as NVX-CoV2373) has been granted marketing conditional authorisation by the European Medicines Agency.

As Ireland’s fifth vaccine, recommendations for its use were made by the to the Chief Medical Officer Tony Holohan after he endorsed the view of the National Immunisation Advisory Committee (NIAC).

Minister Donnelly said that this development was welcome for Ireland’s booster vaccination programme.

"This is a welcome addition to our vaccination programme as it provides another option for adults who remain unvaccinated or partially vaccinated.

"This particular vaccine Nuvaxovid is a spike protein based vaccine and is the first Covid-19 vaccine to be approved that is based on that used in existing vaccines with which we are very familiar including Hepatitis B and whooping cough.

"The vaccine has been shown to be highly effective in preventing symptomatic, moderate and severe disease. We expect the vaccine to be available next month and I would urge the small number of people who have yet to come forward for a primary course of a Covid-19 vaccine to do so."

The vaccine is to be given in two doses with an interval of three weeks between doses and will be suitable for those individuals who could not avail of another Covid-19 vaccine because of a medical contraindication, such as an allergic reaction.

Covid-19 in hospitals

The number of people with Covid-19 in hospital is at the lowest level so far this year.

As of 8am, there were 649 patients with the virus being treated in hospital, down 58 on the same time yesterday.

It compares to a figure of 940 on this day two weeks ago and 836 last Saturday.

Today's number represents the lowest level since 619 on 30 December and is almost 40% down from the recent peak of 1,063 patients on 10 January.

The number of people with Covid-19 in intensive care units is also continuing to fall.

Of the 649 people in hospital with the virus today, 66 are being treated in ICU, a reduction of three on the same time yesterday.

It compares to a figure of 89 on this day two weeks ago.

It represents the lowest level since 5 October, when there were 65 patients with the coronavirus receiving critical care, and the number is also 50% lower than the most recent ICU peak of 132 on 24 November.