People due to receive their booster Covid vaccine this week will only be offered the Moderna dose at mass vaccination centres.
It is understood the HSE has supplies of Moderna that are due to expire next month, so the vaccine will be administered widely over the coming weeks.
Centres are currently offering boosters of Pfizer or Moderna to people aged 60-69, healthcare workers, and younger people in vulnerable groups.
Health Minister Stephen Donnelly said last night that the rollout of boosters for the 50-59 age cohort will start this week. This is expected to expand to all over-50s no later than the end of next week.
A HSE spokeswoman said yesterday: “To ensure that we maximise the usage of all Covid-19 vaccine available, vaccination centres will primarily use Moderna vaccine for booster doses to persons aged 30 years and over in the coming weeks.”
Under-30s will continue to only receive Pfizer as a booster, she said.
Vaccinators told thethey feared that some people may refuse the Moderna vaccine, and are worried about potential verbal abuse.
It follows confusion about Moderna’s efficacy after that company's chief executive Stéphane Bancel warned that vaccines may not be as effective against Omicron as they had been against the Delta variant.
The HSE lead on vaccines, Damien McCallion, said a choice cannot be offered, as had been the case during the vaccine rollout programme, and that people need to be “crystal clear” on this.
The National Immunisation Advisory Committee, NIAC, met last night to discuss expanding the booster programme and how to prioritise vaccinating children aged 5-11.
The HSE has confirmed parents getting a vaccine who are unable to secure childcare can bring a child into mass vaccination centres if they provide an emergency contact, although rescheduling is the preferred option, the spokeswoman said.
Taoiseach Micheál Martin said he does not envisage more restrictions heading into Christmas, and that a full understanding of Omicron will “determine to a certain extent the direction of travel”.
“We’ve laid out our plan until [January 9] and that’s it,” Mr Martin said.
He met with hospitality industry leaders yesterday, along with Tánaiste Leo Varadkar and Arts Minister Catherine Martin, to discuss supports for the sector.
The Department of Social Protection announced that the pandemic unemployment payment (PUP) would be restored to those who lose jobs as a direct result of restrictions.
Mr Martin also defended the Government’s decision to require members of the National Public Health Emergency Team to inform the Government before they speak to journalists.
“Nphet will always be facilitated and I want to make that clear, and at no stage will ever an attempt be made to compromise the independence of that advice because it is so central to our response,” he said.
The Department of Health confirmed 2,950 new cases of Covid-19 yesterday, with 536 patients in hospitals with the virus, including 110 in intensive care.