Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly has said vaccines that have been adapted to Covid-19 variants are set to be introduced to the booster programme from next month.
The National Immunisation Advisory Committee has recommended authorised adapted bivalent vaccines for all those aged 12 years and older who are eligible for a booster.
First dose boosters are being offered to everyone aged 12 and older, and to five to 11-year-olds with a weak immune system.
A second booster is being offered to those aged 50 to 64, those aged 12 years or older with a condition that puts them at a high risk of serious illness from Covid, women who are at least 16 weeks pregnant, healthcare workers and those aged 12 or older who are living in a long-term care facility.
Minister Donnelly encouraged everyone who is eligible for a Covid booster or a primary vaccine course to avail of the option.
"Development of these vaccines represents an important new step in our approach to combating Covid-19 and they will play a significant role in Ireland's autumn/winter vaccination campaign," he said in a statement.
"Doses of bivalent adapted vaccines have already been delivered to Ireland thanks to provisions of purchase agreements negotiated by the Commission as part of the EU's Covid strategy."
📢🚨 Pleased to announce that vaccines adapted to Covid variants will be introduced to our #COVID19 Booster programme from next month.— Stephen Donnelly (@DonnellyStephen) September 16, 2022
Everyone eligible for a booster/primary vaccine course should get vaccinated as it remains the best protection from severe illness. #ForUsAll pic.twitter.com/G81pxHtj1w
Coronavirus experts say the new adapted vaccines will give better protection than the current ones.
Kingston Mills, professor of experimental immunology at Trinity College Dublin, said they may even prevent infection as well as Covid-19 disease.
''I think when the new adapted vaccines become available then there should be a strong push for everyone to go out and get a booster with the adapted vaccines,'' he told RTÉ News, adding that the original vaccines were based on the Wuhan strain.
''The new adapted vaccines have the BA.5 omicron sequence in them, as well as the original Wuhan sequence, so they are better capable of preventing disease and perhaps infection with the current circulating BA.5 strain,'' he said.
The latest HSE figures show that just over 660,000 second booster doses have so far been administered.
The uptake among those eligible for the second booster is 68.1 % for people aged 80 and over, 67.4% for those aged between 70 and 79, 39.1% for people aged 60-69, and just 10.4% for those aged between 50 and 59.
''I think there is a bit of vaccine fatigue right now,'' Prof Mills said, adding that people get ''weary'' of vaccine campaigns.
However, he strongly encouraged the public to take up the offer of the second booster ahead of an expected severe bout of winter flu that is due to hit later this year.
Infectious diseases experts have also expressed caution regarding the World Health Organization's claim earlier this week that the "end is in sight".
''Coronavirus isn't magically going to disappear," said Dr Jack Lambert, a consultant in infectious diseases at the Mater Hospital.
"It has adapted so that it is much more infectious and its much less lethal, so that's good news."
Dr Lambert said that while Covid may not be killing people like before, the virus is still circulating.
Experts say one of the complications of coronavirus is Long Covid.
''I think its going to continue to circulate, maybe two or three times a year there is going to be surges of it,'' said Dr Lambert.
''Less people are going to end up sick in hospital, but I see people who are sick from March 2020 who are still not able to go back to work.''