The coronavirus vaccine rollout in Northern Ireland has been expanded further with it now being available to over 50s.
The Department of Health made the announcement today as the Health Minister and Chief Medical Officer issued a call for as many people as possible to take the vaccine.
From 8am today, those aged between 50 and 59 will be able to book the vaccine, with appointments being made available at each of the seven regional vaccine centres.
GPs are also still providing the jab and people will have a choice of being contacted by them for their vaccine or booking it themselves.
Health Minister Robin Swann said: “Vaccination is our bridge to better, safer and more normal times for everyone.
“Already a large and growing proportion of our adult population has received a first jab. Vaccination is providing vital protection from Covid-19.”
CMO Dr Michael McBride echoed the message saying: “We need to vaccinate those most at risk and those around them. The more of us who are vaccinated, the more we are all protected. Vaccination alone will not provide 100% protection but it will change the balance in our favour against this virus. When your turn comes, don’t delay, get the jab. Protect yourself and others.”
Vaccination centres are being migrated to AstraZeneca vaccine deployment for first doses, to maximise use of available Covid-19 vaccine supplies in NI. That means that increasingly, the same vaccine will be provided by GPs and the centres. Anyone who received the Pfizer vaccine as a first dose will still receive the Pfizer vaccine for their second dose.
Paying tribute to all those involved in the programme, Mr Swann added: “Our health service has had the most challenging year in its history. Yet here it is delivering an unprecedented vaccination programme efficiently and effectively, at pace, on top of all its other work. It is truly remarkable.
“The roll-out will continue to be prioritised based on age, in line with Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation guidance aimed at protecting those in our community who are most vulnerable to the virus.”
Along with vaccination centres and GPs, the DoH has said it is looking at plans to get community pharmacies involved in the vaccination rollout, with hopes they will join the programme in the coming weeks.
The regional centre at the SSE arena is due to open at the end of the month.
GPs are providing vaccines to: everyone aged 50 plus; anyone who received a shielding letter because they are Clinically Extremely Vulnerable (CEV); carers; patients aged 18 and over who have underlying medical conditions. The latter Clinically Vulnerable (CV) group is expected to largely mirror those who receive the winter flu vaccine each year because of their medical conditions. CEV and CV individuals aged 16 and 17 years of age cannot receive the vaccine being used in GP practices. These individuals will receive a letter from their GP and are able to book a vaccination slot at one of the vaccination centres.
There is no need to contact your GP regarding vaccination – they will contact you as they work through their lists.
Anyone booking at one of the seven centres is asked to play their part in ensuring the smooth operation of the system.
They can do this by:
being patient when booking. The expansion announced today is expected to see a surge of demand for slots in March and April. use the online booking portal if possible, to reduce pressure on the telephone line. don’t book multiple appointments. You only need to book once. don’t be a ‘no show’. If you have to cancel your appointment – let us know. If you book and then simply don’t turn up, you are depriving someone else of an appointment.
People wanting to book a vaccination centre appointment are asked to do so online if it all possible: https://vaccinations.covid-19.hscni.net/booking
If online booking is not possible, then the telephone booking number is 0300 200 7813.
The booking line is open 8am to 8pm, Monday to Friday.