The Irish government has said it hopes to fully inoculate all adolescents against Covid-19 by mid-September, as the country opens its vaccination program to 16-17 year olds and promises to make jabs available to everyone over 12.

Speaking on Tuesday, Foreign Minister Simon Coveney told national broadcaster RTE that he hopes the country will have vaccinated all 12–15-year-olds by the middle of September. 

Coveney was speaking as the country extended its Covid vaccine program to those aged 16-17. More than 84% of adults in Ireland are now partially inoculated against the virus, while 70% have received both shots.

Irish health authorities are set to open walk-in vaccination centers this weekend in an effort to encourage younger people, who have recently become eligible for the jab under the country’s phased roll-out, to come forward. 

“This represents a very significant opening up of our vaccination programme. We want to encourage high participation rates now among these remaining age cohorts,” Prime Minister Micheal Martin told reporters.

Ireland is not the first EU country to expand its inoculation program to cover teens. France, Greece and Denmark have all dropped the minimum vaccination age to 12 following European Medicines Agency (EMA) announcement that the Pfizer and Moderna shots are safe for use in minors.

Irish authorities have registered a steep rise in infections in recent weeks, marking a fourth wave of the virus, although there have been tentative signs of cases plateauing.

According to Reuters data, Ireland has registered 175 cases per 100,000 people over the past seven days, representing 19% of the peak infections recorded in January.

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