HEALTH Minister Robin Swann has hailed “another landmark to welcome” as the number of COVID-19 vaccines administered in Northern Ireland passed the one million mark.
The Minister expressed gratitude to everyone involved in the roll-out of the vaccination programme. Minister Swann said: “Vaccination is saving many lives in Northern Ireland. It is also protecting a great many others from serious illness and reducing pressures on our health and social care services.
“Let us not forget how serious the situation was at the turn of the year, with the vaccination programme in its infancy and COVID infection levels rising alarmingly.
“We are in a much better place today, thanks to the AstraZeneca and Pfizer vaccines and to public adherence to public health measures. As we move gradually out of lockdown, we should be very grateful for the vaccination programme’s role in getting us to this point.”
The Minister added: “Hitting the one million mark is undoubtedly another landmark to welcome, and more than 800,000 people have received a first dose. However, we still have work to do. I would strongly urge anyone who is eligible for a vaccine to get their jab at the earliest opportunity.
“I am certainly looking forward to getting my second AstraZeneca dose, and the protection that will bring, when my turn comes.”
Patricia Donnelly, head of Northern Ireland’s vaccination programme, said: “My thanks go to everyone involved in the roll-out at every level for their commitment and enthusiasm.
“At every vaccination location I visit, the mood is the same – optimism and relief.
“We are determined to maintain the momentum. As ever, progress will be dependent on the availability of vaccine supplies.
“We expect supplies to be somewhat limited for the next few weeks and then to pick up again by the end of April or beginning of May.”
Chief Medical Officer Dr Michael McBride said: “If you are eligible for the vaccine don’t delay booking to get your jab. This will protect you and others and will in time allow all of us to do more of things that are important to us."
Dr McBride added: “While no medicine or vaccine is without risk, the UK and EU regulators have again confirmed these are safe and effective vaccines and the benefits of vaccination outweigh any potential risk in the vast majority of people. You must complete your second dose to get full protection. There must be no mixing and matching with Covid-19 vaccines. Whatever your age, your first and second doses must be with the same vaccine. The only exception will be for the very small number of people who have extreme reactions to the first dose. Having your second dose will give you stronger and longer protection from COVID-19.”
Vaccines are being administered at regional vaccination centres, GP practices and around 350 community pharmacists.
Anyone aged 40 or over can book their vaccine appointments at the regional centres. If possible, booking should be done online at: https://covid-19.hscni.net/get-vaccinated
However, where online booking is not possible, the telephone booking number is 0300 200 7813.
Given current supply limits, GPs and community pharmacists will be largely focused on the 50 plus age group in the coming weeks.