GPs are gearing up to give “a jab in each arm” to their older patients from early next month as they administer a Covid-19 booster vaccine and flu shot at the same time.
The family doctors have been asked to give the two vaccines to patients aged over 80 at the same time where possible.
Donegal GP Dr Denis McCauley said the plan was to roll out the double jab from Monday week in surgeries.
“We have been asked to administer the two vaccines at the same time where we can,” said Dr McCauley, chairman of the GP Committee for the Irish Medical Organisation.
The over-80s are one of three groups eligible for an extra Covid-19 Pfizer vaccine at this stage.
The others are nursing home residents over 65 and a select group of people who have very weak immune systems, including transplant and some cancer patients.
Dr McCauley said flu vaccines would be arriving in GPs’ surgeries in the next week-and-a-half.
The flu vaccination roll-out for the entire population will begin on October 4 and children will also be offered a flu jab.
Booster Covid-19 vaccines will be delivered to GP surgeries from Monday week.
Nursing home residents over 65 will be given their additional Covid-19 shot by visiting HSE teams.
The same teams will visit separately to give them the flu vaccine.
People who are immunosuppressed and had a poor response to their first full doses of the Covid-19 vaccine will be able to book appointments from the middle of next week.
The first of these jabs may be administered from Friday, although it will take up to six weeks to cover everyone.
Dr McCauley said this immunosuppressed group would most likely be given the extra Covid-19 vaccine in hospital.
Concerns around a weaker response to the vaccine, as well as waning immunity, has prompted the decision to give the most vulnerable groups a top-up jab first.
However, it is likely that other groups may yet be designated.
This will include the over-70s, people in their 60s who received the AstraZeneca vaccine, as well as healthcare workers.
It comes as 1,163 cases of the virus were confirmed yesterday.
The number of Covid-19 patients in hospital rose by 11 to 297 with 61 of these in intensive care, an increase of two since the previous day.
New figures show that between April 1 and last Saturday, 62 of the 335 patients admitted to intensive care – nearly one in 20 – were fully vaccinated. The majority were unvaccinated and one-third had received one dose.
Among the fully vaccinated patients, the median age was 67 and they ranged from 30 to 88 years.
Thirty of these fully vaccinated patients had underlying conditions. Twelve of the patients died.
A separate report on deaths among Covid-19 patients between April 1 and last Saturday showed 271 people with the virus died. Of these, 84 were fully vaccinated, although most were unvaccinated or had just one dose.
The median age of fully vaccinated people who died was 82.
They ranged in age from 54 to 97. Fifty-five had an underlying condition.
Meanwhile, a new report from the Central Statistics Office (CSO) shows that those under the age of 44 accounted for 76pc of cases in the week ending September 17.
Leitrim, Longford, Roscommon, Sligo and Wicklow had the fewest cases, with fewer than 100 in each county in the same week.
Hospitalisations have been decreasing since the week ending August 27 and stood at 111 in the week ending September 17.
The construction sector saw a 16pc rise in case numbers from the previous week.
Cork recorded six deaths in the week ending September 17 and was the only county to record more than five deaths in the week.
Children under 14 made up 34pc of confirmed cases, with people over 65 accounting for 7pc.
Since the start of the pandemic, 53pc of those hospitalised were men, and they also accounted for 64pc of those admitted to intensive care.
Rates of vaccination are lower along the Border and in areas with a more urban population.