The Tánaiste has admitted he is worried about vaccine hesitancy and expects up to 15% of the population could refuse a Covid-19 vaccine.
However, Leo Varadkar said he expects people “may change their minds” about getting the jab if it is tied to their ability to travel and attend large gatherings.
His comments come as the National Immunisation Advisory Committee (Niac) are set to decide whether the Johnson and Johnson jab can be used here and under what conditions, following concerns about rare blood clots. Last week, Niac recommended restricting the AstraZeneca vaccine to over-60s.
Speaking to, the Fine Gael leader said he was also worried about “vaccine apathy”.
“What they have found in some countries like Israel, is that there are a lot of people who aren't afraid of getting the vaccine but just don't really get around to it.
“When the numbers go down low, and people start going back to their normal lives and there aren't many deaths...it kind of falls down the priority list.”
The Tánaiste stressed that for the vaccine rollout “to work fully”, we need around 80% of the population vaccinated.
“That’s where you start to hit herd immunity, where the virus just doesn’t have anywhere to go," he said.
Asked about the government’s reopening plans for the summer, Mr Varadkar said he was “a little bit worried” about answering the question because things can change quickly.
“The four things we look at to see if they are going in the right direction are the vaccine programme, the number of cases, the state of our hospitals and any particular concerns around variants," he said.
“In the last day or two you would have seen numbers falling again and going back up again. We hope that’s not part of a trend.”
“I think it’s probably not, you just never know what it is going to look like in a week’s time.”
The Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment said assuming “we’re still on track,” the plan across May is to have phased return of retail, personal services including barbers, hairdressers, and the beauty industry.
He also expects more outdoor activities will return, alongside religious services “in some form.”
“In June or July you’d be talking hospitality and other things. This is all contingent on numbers, on people getting COVID staying under control and the number of people getting vaccines continuing to rise.”
“I’m hoping there will be no setbacks,” he said, “but just the last day or two would make you pause for thought.”
The government is set to meet next week to discuss an easing of Covid-19 restrictions over the summer.