THIS week, Northern Ireland has begun a new phase in its Covid-19 vaccination programme with GPs starting to administer the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine to patients aged 80 and over.
Early indications show that 397 doses of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine were deployed in 13 GP surgeries on the first day of the Primary Care vaccination programme.
Northern Ireland received a first consignment of around 50,000 doses of the vaccine and more practices will begin delivering it next week.
A spokesperson for the Department of Health said: “The start of the Primary Care vaccination programme this week is a real game-changer in efforts to protect our most vulnerable citizens and reduce the terrible impact that Covid-19 is having on our health service.
“Towards the end of January we will have vaccinated all of the over 80s in Northern Ireland who wish to avail of the vaccine and then we’ll progressively roll it out to the over 75s, the over 70s and the clinically extremely vulnerable. Our aim is to get the vaccine into the arms of our most vulnerable as quickly as we possibly can.
“The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) has recommended a strategy of prioritising first doses of vaccines to as many people as possible. We know that after the first dose of either the Oxford/AstraZeneca or the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine within two to three weeks there is a very high level of immunity and after 21 days, irrespective of which vaccine you have, that immunity does not drop off.”
In addition to the roll-out of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine, more than 46,000 first doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine have now been administered to care home residents and staff, as well as Health and Social Care (HSC) staff.
Since the vaccination programme began on 8 December, a total of 46,043 first doses have been given to 9,644 care home residents and 11,260 care home staff. Vaccination teams have now visited 439 out of the 483 care homes in Northern Ireland. That’s every home that doesn’t currently have a Covid-19 outbreak. We expect the remaining care homes to be vaccinated by mid-January. A total of 25,623 HSC staff have now received the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine at seven Trust vaccination centres – this is more than a third of the workforce.
The Department of Health spokesperson added: “Our vaccination programme has achieved a great deal in a very short space of time and we are very grateful to the many colleagues across our Trusts and GP practices who are working tirelessly to make sure that we get the vaccine to patients and healthcare staff.
“While it’s very reassuring to see the vaccine rolling out so efficiently, this does not mean that we can drop our guard. Please continue to follow the basic public health advice about social distancing, reducing contact, wearing face coverings and remembering hand hygiene because we need to all we can to keep ourselves and our loved ones safe.”