Authorisation for use of the Moderna Covid-19 vaccine has been signed by the health minister, Stephen Donnelly.
The authorisation order, which is effective immediately, comes a day after the first shipment of the vaccine arrived in the country on Tuesday.
Writing on Twitter, the minister said he was "looking forward to signing the same" for the AstraZeneca vaccine.
The Moderna jab is the second Covid-19 vaccine approved for use here. The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine was authorised in December.
A third vaccine manufacturer, Oxford AstraZeneca, has applied to the European Union Medicines Agency (EMA) for authorisation for use.
Delighted to have just signed the authorisation for use of Moderna by our vaccinators, effective immediately. Looking forward to signing the same for Astra Zeneca soon. 👍#Holdfirm pic.twitter.com/useKGrgBHq— Stephen Donnelly (@DonnellyStephen) January 13, 2021
In a statement, the EMA said an assessment of the vaccine would proceed "under an accelerated timeline", with hopes that a final sign off could be completed by January 29.
The EU's seemingly slow process of vaccine authorisation has been criticised by several member states, including Ireland.
Health minister Stephen Donnelly called upon the European Commission, the European Centre for Disease Control, and the EMA to speed up the process for approval of the AstraZeneca jab.
Mr Donnelly said he raised the issue during a video conference with other European health ministers on Wednesday.
During the meeting, Mr Donnelly also called for “greater sharing among EU member States of data on vaccine efficacy and transmission rates".
Good meeting of EU Health Ministers today along with EC, ECDC and EMA. I called for an acceleration of the timeline for approval of the AstraZenica vaccine if possible, and for greater sharing among EU member states of the data on vaccine efficacy and transmission rates. pic.twitter.com/ee0PcKRJRH— Stephen Donnelly (@DonnellyStephen) January 13, 2021
Both the health minister and the Tánaiste, Leo Varadkar, have signalled that EU approval of the AstraZeneca vaccine would speed up Ireland’s own vaccination programme significantly.
The Moderna and Pfizer/BioNTech vaccines need to be stored at sub-zero temperatures, and are therefore more challenging to transport.
The Oxford AstraZeneca vaccine, however, only needs to be stored at normal refrigerated temperatures, making it much easier to administer.
The UK government began administering the Oxford AztraZeneca vaccine late last year.
Very positive development. If approved this vaccine will allow significant scaling up of vaccination programme https://t.co/gXLUoclWxc— Leo Varadkar (@LeoVaradkar) January 12, 2021
Up until Sunday of last weekend, just over 35,000 people in Ireland had received their first dose of the Covid-19 vaccine.
By this Sunday, the Government hopes to have administered nearly 140,000 doses.
If the AstraZeneca vaccine does indeed receive EU approval by the end of the month, the Government has said over 700,000 people could be vaccinated by late March.