Almost half of Irish adults are now fully vaccinated against Covid-19, HSE chief executive Paul Reid has said.
New figures released on Saturday show that 48% of adults, 1.8 million people, have now received two doses of the vaccine, while another 68%, 2.56 million, have had their first dose.
It comes after the Government announced a number of new measures aimed at boosting the vaccination rollout, in a race against the more transmissible Delta variant.
Mr Reid said Ireland must plan for the Delta variant with “concern”, but with “a level of confidence also”.
He tweeted: “Almost 4.3M vaccines administered. Over 2.56M adults partially vaccinated (68%) & over 1.8M (48%) fully vaccinated.
“Over 55,000 administered on each of the last 4 days, & over 272,000 so far this week.”
Efforts to ramp up the vaccination programme are ongoing, amid the threat posed by the Delta variant and a recommendation from public health experts that indoor hospitality not return until a system can be set up allowing only vaccinated customers to enter.
As part of those efforts, Ireland on Friday agreed a deal in principle to purchase one million unwanted vaccines from Romania.
Taoiseach Micheal Martin spoke to Romanian President Klaus Iohannis, when a deal was agreed, however it is yet to be finalised.
It followed an earlier announcement that the rollout will be accelerated for people aged 18 to 34.
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.