The Minister for Health has confirmed that the Government is in talks to secure early delivery of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine against COVID-19.
Stephen Donnelly says an advanced shipment would allow vaccinations to start as soon EU approval is granted.
The European Medicines Agency is due to meet at the end of the month to consider authorising the jab for use across member states.
Minister Donnelly added that an early delivery means we could begin rollout out right away.
He stated that by following the national provisional inoculation schedule currently in place, and assuming vaccines are approved, all adults in Ireland could be offered the vaccine by September.
Speaking to Newstalk's On The Record with Gavan Reilly programme, he said his Department is seeking authorisation for the AstraZeneca vaccine, with a decision on its approval set to be made on January 29th.
"When we look back on Pfizer, the EMA on very short notice brought that decision forward a week.
"What I would like to see if possible is to get the AstraZeneca vaccine into Ireland and ideally into all the GP surgeries, into all the pharmacies so that the moment the EMA and EU Commission authorise it, I then have to sign a statutory instrument that authorises it for use in Ireland and we get vaccinating straight away."
Minister Donnelly said that it may not be possible "right now" as there are regulatory hurdles around procurement.
"AstraZeneca may themselves not do it but I want to make sure, and I know everyone working on this procurement process wants to make sure, is that not a single day is wasted," he added.
He said the immunisation was being administered as soon as the vaccine arrives in the country.
By next Sunday, 140,000 people in Ireland will have been vaccinated, which is split evenly between healthcare workers and people in long-term residential care.
In long-term residential care, that includes all nursing home residents and staff, and residents over 65 in mental health and disability long-term settings.
"When it comes to the frontline healthcare workers, there's around 150,000 in that cohort, which includes people in the hospitals, people in the community, GPs and many others," he added.
"By next Sunday, we'll have had enough vaccines in the country to vaccinate just under half of that cohort with the first dose."
Main image: A nurse holds a vial of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine. Credit: Frank Hoermann/SVEN SIMON/DPA/PA Images