All children between the ages of two and 12 are to be given the flu vaccine free of charge, the Minister for Health has confirmed.
All people in at-risk groups between the ages of six months and 69 years will also be given the vaccine without charge.
Those over the age of 70 already have access to the vaccine free of charge.
According to Minister Simon Harris, a resurgence of COVID-19 during the coming flu season "could present a significant challenge to the delivery of healthcare services in the coming winter".
"That is why officials from my department have been working closely with the HSE to put in place an expansion of the seasonal influenza vaccination programme for winter 2020/21.
"Flu is a potentially fatal illness and I want to ensure that the most vulnerable in our communities are protected," he commented.
The flu season in Ireland usually runs from October until the end of April. Every year, between 200 and 500 people die as a result of flu and thousands are hospitalised.
The 2019/2020 flu season led to the hospitalisation of over 4,000 people.
Work is currently underway to plan this expansion and information will be provided when arrangements have been finalised.
"The flu vaccine is the only defence against the flu and is the best option for vulnerable people against the life-threatening complications of flu," Minister Harris added.
At-risk groups include:
-People over the age of 65
-Adults and children over six months of age with long-term health conditions, such as cancer, chronic heart disease, chronic respiratory disease and diabetes
-Residents of long-stay facilities, such as nursing homes
-People who care for those at increased risk.
The news has been welcomed by the Irish Pharmacy Union (IPU).
"While we would have liked to see the scheme extended further, making the flu vaccination available to children aged 2-12 and to all at risk groups without charge is definitely a step in the right direction. It will help increase our capacity to combat seasonal flu and prevent it from overwhelming the health system during the winter," commented IPU secretary general, Darragh O'Loughlin.
Discussions on this topic are now closed.