Health Minister Stephen Donnelly has admitted as many as half a million vaccines could have to be binned if people fail to get their booster
Mr Donnelly said that vaccines that are taken out of the freezer must be used or will have to be wasted as they cannot be donated to other countries.
“They can't be donated as they go out of date once they've been taken out of the freezer,” Mr Donnelly said.
He said he wants to ensure those vaccines are not wasted and called on those eligible for a booster shot to get it.
“We made sure there were enough vaccines available for everyone who wanted to take a booster. Then what happened is we saw this huge increase obviously in Omicron cases up to, by my reckoning, about half a million a week.
"Anyone who has been infected in the last three months is precluded from taking the booster, but what I would say to anyone now, if you haven't had a booster, they are there and they're incredibly effective,” he said on.
His comments come as the Department of Health confirmed a total of 8,126 cases of Covid-19 reported.
There were 4,731 PCR confirmed cases and an additional 3,395 positive antigen tests registered through the HSE portal.
As of 8am, there are 845 Covid patients in Irish hospitals, of whom 70 are in intensive care.
Mr Donnelly also defended the decision to scrap the requirement for the Covid pass to access hospitality, adding the time has come for the sector to open up fully.
However, he said it is the view “for now” and no one can rule out further changes.
He said the public health rationale for retaining those passes has now passed even though there had been benefits in reassuring people congregating in public spaces.
“The cert was broadly supported and it did work but I am satisfied that for now anyway, the rationale is there to open up hospitality fully,” he said on a separateinterview.
He said unvaccinated people are “putting themselves at risk”.
“I think it is on them, if they choose not to get vaccinated they are knowingly putting themselves at significantly higher risk. But ultimately that is a choice for them,” he said.
He agreed the political judgment had been made that it is a choice for these people rather than a public duty to protect them.
“The emergency powers we brought in are very serious, and we’re talking about curtailing peoples’ civil liberties, their economic liberties. They should only be done when there’s a very strong public health rationale,” he said.
Mr Donnelly also indicated that emergency powers due to expire at the end of March would be allowed to do so unless there is “a clear and present danger that needs to be addressed”.
Mr Donnelly said he is not aware of a wide Government review into the handling of the pandemic but did say he will seek Government approval for a review on how the health service handled Covid.
“I’ll be bringing a memo to Government shortly to look at the establishment of a group looking at the health service,” he said.
“The sooner we can get that feedback the better,” he said, adding that the group will also look at the future of public health in Ireland.
Sinn Féin President Mary Lou McDonald said only a full public inquiry into the handling of the pandemic is required.
She said neither the review outlined by Mr Donnelly or the review spoken about by Taoiseach Micheál Martin would be sufficient.
“We have argued for a public inquiry, we recognise that it needs to be time bound, and it has to look at all of the areas. An area of particular concern is the experience in nursing homes in the first wave of this public health emergency,” she said.
“But there are other issues that need to be investigated. And some of them very serious issues around the management of this public health emergency.
"The public inquiry has to allow a platform for those experiences. To be recorded, to be validated, to be heard, understood, and then responded to,” she said.