Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly said it is planned that all those working and living in Ireland's 580 nursing homes - around 70,000 people - will receive their first Covid-19 vaccine dose by the end of this month.

"We are due to receive 40,000 vaccines a week from Pfizer in January and February," he said on Twitter.

"It’s a two dose vaccine. Every EU country is getting a pro rata share based on population size. A decision on the Moderna vaccine is imminent and AstraZeneca one looks promising.

"We also have agreements with others [as] more vaccines become available and manufacturers scale up production, supply will increase."

The minister added: "That will enable us to vaccinate more people. We have ordered/pre-ordered circa 7.6 million doses from Pfizer, Moderna and AstraZeneca. We have also pre-ordered from other manufacturers."

Mr Donnelly also confirmed that the number of vaccinations being carried out per day in Ireland will be added to the Covid-19 Ireland data hub.

"It's important people know how the vaccination programme is going," he said.

Earlier today, the Minister for European affairs said a decision on delaying a second dose of the existing vaccine supply has not been decided on and will be guided by health experts.

Thomas Byrne said the Government's vaccine programme "is not unambitious" and that a further 40,000 doses are expected to arrive in the coming week.

The roll-out of vaccines began in Dublin last Tuesday, with a 79-year-old Dublin woman the first person to be administered the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine at St James's Hospital.

Mr Byrne defended the Government's handling of restrictions in December, saying while it was known numbers would go up, "no one predicted numbers would go to this level".

In excess of 3,000 new cases are expected to be reported today, including some of the 9,000 delayed cases that were flagged by the National Public Health Emergency Team yesterday

Speaking on RTÉ's Saturday with Katie Hannon, Mr Byrne said there was not a huge difference in what NPHET proposed and what the Government decided on in early December.

The minister appealed to the public to follow "the letter and spirit" of the current guidelines and said the Government wants to get children safely back to school and will follow whatever advice is given to them.

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This afternoon, fellow Fianna Fáil TD Marc MacSharry argued that the Government should "urgently" demand more Covid-19 vaccine from drug firms - "at whatever the price" - and then ensure it is administered to the public with "military precision".

The deputy for Sligo-Leitrim said while he appreciated Ireland was part of an EU procurement process, both Israel and Bahrain were leading the charge when it came to the vaccine roll-out by "keeping things simple and getting the job done".

He contended that both Ireland and the European Union are failing citizens because we have "strangled ourselves with process, procedure and bureaucracy". 

The Fianna Fáil backbencher said data released last night showed that only 1,800 doses have been administered to people in Ireland, when more than 40,000 arrived a week ago - and this was "simply not good enough".

Mr MacSharry said he wanted to know whether it was money, complacency or ineptitude which has led to a situation in which a vaccine manufactured in the EU was not available in a large supply to member states.

The TD, who is a member of the Dáil's Public Accounts Committee, also asserted that Ireland had not "prepared adequately" for the arrival of the vaccine, for example by securing consent in advance from people living in care homes.   

He argued that "mediocrity dressed-up as efficiency" wasn't acceptable and that, instead, we needed to ensure that "leadership, urgency, simplicity and common sense are the order of the day".

Sinn Féin's health spokesperson David Cullinane said it is now the time for the Government, NPHET and the opposition to deal with this health emergency together.

Deputy Cullinane said that "as tough as it is" people need to follow the public health guidelines and he called for the Government to do more to support businesses and individuals.

He said staffing, training and geographical spread are key to the vaccination programme and that more information is needed from the Government in relation to the decisions being made.

Peadar Tóibín, leader of Aontú, said on Twitter that with 1,800 vaccinations administered in the first three days, "at this rate it will take 45 years to innoculate everyone".

Social Democrats co-leader Róisín Shortall said the country is in a "dire situation" and her party has written to Taoiseach Micheál Martin today calling for a cross-party approach to the situation, which she said is an emergency akin to a "a war-like" situation.

She said that there has been no detail given on the scheduling of the arrival of vaccines and said "the Government needs to level with people" about the likely dates for vaccination and not give people false hope.

Meanwhile, Labour's Education spokesperson Aodhán Ó Ríordáin called on NPHET to carry out a public health assessment on the reopening of schools on 11 January.

In a statement, he said that while the decision to delay the reopening of schools is welcome, the virus is now "rampant in the community so we need to properly assess the public health risks to staff, students and the wider community".

Mr Ó Ríordáin said that schools remaining open is the priority once it can be done safely and "there may be mid-way measures possible between all open and all closed that will need to be considered, but the priority should be a public health risk assessment from NPHET".