People over 70 who live at home are expected to have to wait until late February or March before they can get the Covid-19 vaccine from their GP, it emerged yesterday.
Dr Denis McCauley, GP spokesman for the Irish Medical Organisation, said it is likely GPs will not become involved until there is enough vaccine to offer to older groups in the community.
Most of the first consignment of the Pfizer BioNtech vaccine is expected to be used immunising residents in long-term care and frontline healthcare workers.
The patients who will, in the initial stages, be offered the vaccine by their family doctor will generally be those who are also in line for the annual flu shot, he pointed out.
Around half of people given the Covid-19 jab will have a sore arm for a day or so.
GPs will have just five days to administer the vaccine to stop it getting too warm.
He was speaking as the high-level report of the task force established to draw up the plan for the roll-out of the vaccine was delivered to the Health Minister last night.
The Department of Health was unable to say yesterday how many will be eligible for the first vaccines in January.
An important element of the plan is expected to include a strong level of security following a warning by Interpol about theft of the vaccines by criminal gangs.
The need for people living in the community to wait for a number of months for the vaccine comes as three more Covid-related deaths were announced yesterday.
A further 313 new cases of the virus were diagnosed indicating the numbers are still stable for now with two weeks to Christmas. The numbers in hospital fell to 197 but there are still 35 seriously ill patients in intensive care.
Donegal, Kilkenny and Louth have the highest 14-day incidence while it is lowest in Leitrim, Kerry and Cork. The latest report on healthcare worker infections show 3,783 were diagnosed with the virus between August and the end of November. Of these, 88 were hospitalised and seven treated in intensive care.
Meanwhile, the HSE is extending the children's nasal spray flu vaccine to include teenagers ages 13 to 17.
It previously was only available to those aged from 2 to 12, but take up has been disappointing and the vaccines will be out of date in January.
There are no cases of flu recorded here yet this winter.
Dr Chantal Migone, specialist in public health medicine, said that so far nearly 200,000 children between the ages of 2 and 12 years have received the nasal flu vaccine through GP practices and pharmacies across the country.
"The first batches of nasal flu vaccine are due to expire in the middle of January so it's important for parents to come forward to get their children vaccinated now, to protect them against flu. Children are more likely than adults to get severe complications of flu.
"Over the last 10 years in Ireland 4,750 children needed to be admitted to hospital because of complications of flu, 183 of these then had to go to intensive care and, sadly, 41 children died.
"Children with chronic health conditions are most at risk of the serious complications of flu."
Meanwhile, a leading psychiatrist has said one in five people has "significantly increased psychological distress" which is likely attributable to anxiety about Covid-19 and the effects of restrictions
Dr Brendan Kelly of Trinity College Dublin said up to 86pc of healthcare workers globally reported feeling stressed and in Ireland up to 40pc of the radiographers surveyed showed signs of burnout - 30pc considered changing jobs or retiring, he wrote in the Irish Medical Journal.
Psychological distress among healthcare workers was found to be approximately double that of the general population.