The State plans to vaccinate more than one million of the country's most vulnerable against Covid-19 in the coming months, with hopes that the first of those could receive the jab as early as next month.
As preparations to inoculate the nation intensify, the National Vaccine Taskforce is also likely to propose a twin roll-out of the vaccine across GP practices and in regional hubs, the Sunday Independent understands.
The taskforce is likely to recommend a 'vaccine passport' to allow the health service to keep track of the immunisation process. Most vaccines will be administered in two shots, three weeks apart, to be effective.
"There will need to be very detailed IT records of all aspects of this in terms of inviting people for vaccination, scheduling, inviting them back, monitoring responses and the possibility of utilisation of the record as some form of immunisation passport," said a high-level source.
Those centrally involved in drawing up the plan now hope that a large fraction of the population will be vaccinated by the end of next summer, if the product can be rolled out efficiently. Health officials expect that by February there will be multiple vaccines on the ground in Ireland, but it is unlikely that people will get a choice of which vaccine to take.
With the first vaccines awaiting regulatory approval next month, officials are working on the basis that the first doses could be delivered to Ireland before the end of December.
"My expectation is that if vaccines arrive in the country before the end of December, that we will aim to deploy before the end of December," said a senior figure who is working on Ireland's plan.
However, government and public health sources caution it is more likely to be January before the first vaccines arrive. Pfizer's RNA vaccine, developed in conjunction with BioNTech and said to be 95pc effective, will likely be the first to arrive in Ireland.
The National Vaccine Taskforce will report to Government by December 11. However, Tánaiste Leo Varadkar sounded a note of caution at the Fine Gael parliamentary meeting last week.
He told party colleagues that the speed at which the vaccine is being produced means that something is "bound to go wrong" and a critical mass of people won't be vaccinated before the second quarter of next year.
A spokesperson for the Tánaiste told the Sunday Independent: "The Tánaiste is confident that a vaccine or several vaccines will be available in Ireland in the first half of next year.
"We are well placed with pre-orders in place through the EU Commission and a taskforce set up. But we need to be realistic about timelines. Notwithstanding the good news in recent weeks, no vaccine has yet been approved by the European Medicines Agency and manufacturing, distribution and administration will be a huge undertaking."
Preparations are under way to store the first doses of vaccine at the HSE's Cold Chain Delivery Service in City West, Dublin. Pfizer and BioNTech's vaccine, which is expected to be first to come on the market, requires supercool storage at -70 degrees and has a shelf life of five days. However, Pfizer has promised to ship the vials direct from its plant in Belgium to the "point of vaccination".
A senior HSE source said: "If we get it in, you could get it out in five days or a week. We're not going to have it by December 11, but once the plan is accepted [by Government] it's a matter of operationalising it. I'd imagine we'd start rolling our way through the cohorts fairly quickly."
The taskforce is developing a communications plan that will aim to provide clear evidence of the vaccine's efficacy and address concerns about the speed of its production.
This comes as research carried out on behalf of the Irish Pharmacy Union found that just over half (51pc) of more than 1,000 respondents stated they would avail of a Covid-19 vaccine. However, a quarter - 24pc - said while they would avail of it, they would not do so straight away.
The Government is facing calls for greater engagement with logistical experts who could be central to ensuring the safe distribution of the Covid-19 vaccine nationwide.
Verona Murphy, independent TD and a former president of the Road Haulage Association, said she plans to raise the Government's engagement with stakeholders over preparations for distributing the vaccine.
Medical sources in Ireland's acute hospitals said urgent attention needed to be given to buying equipment now such as commercial "ultra- low temperature" freezers capable of lengthening the vaccine's shelf life by six months.
Dr Denis McCauley, chair of the GP committee of the Irish Medical Organisation, said he expects short-life vaccines will be administered in regional hubs.
Visit our Covid-19 vaccine dashboard for updates on the roll out of the vaccination program and the rate of Coronavirus cases Ireland
A political opposition is supposed to present clear and effective alternatives to government policy. So far on Covid, the Opposition has failed to do that. Sinn Féin, Labour and the Social Democrats have been reluctant to call for a Covid paradigm shift, which is exactly what we need to get out of this mess.
This year has been an annus horribilis for most people, not least for those at either end of adulthood. Those in their 20s and older people have found themselves at the centre of public discourse - the latter as the group most at risk of contracting Covid-19 and the former as the group most likely to increase that risk. They each have endured a year of being talked about, rarely listened to, and often patronised, and, for older people, the added insult of being 'cocooned', a term usually reserved for babies.
Six weeks after Covid-19 turned her life upside down, Dolores Hogg still cannot believe it happened to her. The 75-year-old was a healthy and active woman, a non-smoker with no underlying health problems, and was taking every precaution to protect herself. "I feel I was being extremely careful. Wearing my mask everywhere, washing my hands. When I went to the supermarket I would disinfect the handle of the trolley. It feels very unfair. If I got it, then anyone can get it," the Dublin woman explains through her oxygen mask at Clontarf rehabilitation hospital.