Ireland could offer coronavirus vaccines to adolescents aged 12-15 as early as next month after opening its programme to 16 and 17-year olds on Tuesday.
Ireland's highly successful COVID-19 vaccine programme is running at one of the fastest rates in Europe, with almost 70% of its adult population fully vaccinated and more than 84% partially protected with the first of two doses.
The European Medicines Agency (EMA), which has approved both the Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna coronavirus vaccines for use in teenagers, has encouraged EU member states to offer vaccines to those as young as 12.
The UK only offers jabs to adolescents aged 12-15 if they are at increased risk from the virus.
The Irish government hopes those aged 12 to 15 will be fully vaccinated within the first half of September, foreign minister Simon Coveney told national broadcaster RTE.
The broadcaster reported that vaccination of a quarter of a million people aged 12-15 could begin as early as next week so it can be completed before the start of the new school term.
Both Pfizer and Moderna's vaccines require two doses to be given four weeks apart.
Ireland has been working its way down the age groups and will also open walk-in vaccination centres this weekend for the first time to encourage recently eligible younger people to get a shot, Prime Minister Micheál Martin said.
"This represents a very significant opening up of our vaccination programme. We want to encourage high participation rates now among these remaining age cohorts," Mr Martin told reporters.
Health Service Executive CEO Paul Reid tweeted: "Teenagers have sacrificed a lot throughout COVID-19 and we should be proud of their response overall. Now it's their turn to be protected.
"Sixteen and 17-year-olds can register online to receive their vaccine. And we'll be aiming to get these done promptly. They deserve it."
The more transmissible Delta variant is leading to a fourth wave of COVID-19 infections in Ireland, particularly among younger people, although the seven-day growth rate has shown tentative signs of plateauing in recent days.
Ireland has reported 294,272 COVID-19 cases among its 4.9 million population, with 5,026 deaths.
On Monday, the country reopened indoor dining only to those who are fully vaccinated or who have had COVID in the last six months.