Ireland has agreed a deal in principle to purchase one million unwanted vaccines from Romania.
Taoiseach Micheal Martin spoke to the president of Romania, Klaus Iohannis, on Friday and a deal was agreed, but is yet to be finalised.
It will provide a further boost for Ireland’s vaccination rollout, following an earlier announcement that it will be accelerated for people aged 18 to 34.
A spokesman for the Taoiseach said: “The Taoiseach has consistently been making every effort and working with his counterparts across Europe to increase the number of vaccines made available to Ireland.
“As part of this process the Taoiseach had a good discussion this morning with his EU counterpart, Romanian president Klaus Iohannis, and they agreed in principle to the purchase of one million vaccines.
“This process is continuing and is yet to be completed. He will continue to work with his government colleagues to expedite the vaccine programme.
“This includes discussions with the European Commission and with member states, particularly those who may have potential surpluses.
“Ensuring that as many people as possible can get vaccinated as quickly as possible remains the best way to combat Covid-19, particularly given the rapid rise of the Delta variant.”
The PA news agency understands that the purchase will be made up of the mRNA vaccines Pfizer and Moderna.
Earlier it was announced that people aged 18 to 34 could receive their coronavirus vaccine up to two months early under an accelerated programme announced by the Minister for Health.
It follows updated advice from the National Immunisation Advisory Committee (NIAC) that the AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson (also known as Janssen) vaccines can be given to people under 40.
People aged 18 to 34 can now “opt in” for one of those jabs, or choose to wait for an mRNA vaccine such as Pfizer or Moderna.
The opt-in system will run in parallel with the online registration portal, which will open for the 30 to 34-year-old age cohort next Friday.
Health Minister Stephen Donnelly told the Dail that “a significant acceleration of the vaccine programme” will begin from Monday.
He said: “In short, the changes that we’re implementing from Monday will mean that the 18 to 34-year-old age group will have the option of being vaccinated one to two months early.
“And that would have been really, really welcome regardless of the Delta variant and this surge, but particularly in light of the modelling we saw from Professor Nolan’s team as to what is likely to happen here through August and September in particular.
“To be able to pull forward a huge number of people from September to August, and some from August into July, is incredibly valuable.
“It’s really going to help us protecting each other and protect our population from the Delta surge that we know is coming.”
It comes after chief medical officer Dr Tony Holohan warned a fourth wave of Covid-19, driven by the Delta variant, cannot be stopped, and will lead to higher levels of hospital admissions and death.
The accelerated vaccine rollout will fail to halt an exponential rise in cases in July and August, he said, but should help bring the situation under control in September.
Mr Donnelly said: “Supplies of Janssen (J&J) and AstraZeneca will be somewhat limited during July, but we expect that supplies will be able to accommodate a significant number of this age group through July.”
He said up to 210,000 J&J vaccines will be available in July.
Another 100,000 AstraZeneca jabs will be available, after the outstanding second doses have been administered.
“The company is committed to providing significantly higher amounts than that,” Mr Donnelly added.
Mr Donnelly said the estimate for people aged 25 to 29 to get their first dose, should they wait for mRNA, would be early August, with people aged 18 to 24 waiting until mid-August.
That means it would be early to mid-September before they get their second dose and are fully vaccinated.
The accelerated rollout is take to place in pharmacies and vaccination centres across the country.
Mr Donnelly said: “People will be able to seek an appointment in one of over 700 pharmacies across the country for a Janssen vaccine, subject to supply.
“The following week, the week of the 12th of July, 18 to 34-year-olds will also be able to register on the HSE portal for an appointment in a vaccine centre for an earlier vaccination.
“In the main that will be AstraZeneca, and there will be some Janssen supply available as well. The point is, they’ll then be vaccinated earlier than if they waited for the mRNA vaccine.”