The HSE's National Director of Vaccine Supply Chain and Logistics has said Ireland now has "sufficient capacity and resilience" to roll-out the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine, when it becomes available here.

Sean Bresnan was speaking following the arrival of nine ultra-low temperature freezers, which can each store between 175,000 and 200,000 doses of the jab.

He said a key part of the planning in relation to the Covid-19 vaccine implementation programme has been the procurement process.

"It is an incredibly competitive market right now globally and Ireland has done extremely well in securing sufficient capacity and resilience to ensure we safely store and distributed the Pfizer BioNTech vaccine."

The equipment will be based at a secure location at the HSE's National Cold Chain Centre in west Dublin, the exact location of which is not being disclosed for security reasons.

The freezers, which arrived in Ireland this week, are designed to store the vaccine developed by Pfizer and BioNTech at -75C for up to six months.

The doses will be distributed from the central facility to vaccination centres around the country in specialised refrigerated vehicles at a temperature between 2C and 8C.

Mr Bresnan said "the freezers are currently undergoing a rigorous and intensive commissioning and validation process.

"We expect that process to be concluded and completed within the next 10 to 12 days but in any event, ahead of the conditional market authorisation date that has been advised by the European Medicines Agency."

That date is currently 29 December.

He also said "it is fair to say the nine freezers that are currently being commissioned certainly provides us with enough capacity and resilience to deal with the allocation" of the vaccine that Ireland would receive as part of the deal negotiated by the European Union.

The Department of Health has previously said Ireland will be allocated 1.1% of the European portfolio of vaccines.

A leading immunologist has said he suspects the European Medicine Agency will speed up the approval of the Pifzer and BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine.

Professor Luke O'Neill's comments come after the jab was approved for use in the UK by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency.

He said the agency has "a mountain of data to get through and the EMA is extremely careful and very, very diligent."

"I suspect they might speed up a little bit now that we see approvals happening and when they say go, that means this vaccine is very safe, very efficacious and then off we go and we can start using it," he added.

Prof O'Neill said he is very confident that the vaccine, which is due to be given to people in Northern Ireland from next Tuesday morning, will also be authorised for use by the EMA.

He said "different agencies do things a bit differently and the EMA has different rules" and he said "the delay isn't anything to worry about."

He said the Food and Drug Administration in the United States is likely to back the Pfizer BioNTech vaccine next Thursday and he said "we need to get it approved quickly here as well."