THE Public Health Agency (PHA) is urging everyone who is eligible to book their COVID-19 vaccine now; you don’t need to be invited.
Over one million COVID-19 vaccine doses have now been administered in Northern Ireland since the Department of Health launched the vaccination campaign at the end of 2020, helping to save lives and protect a great many others from serious illness.
Currently people over the age of 40 are eligible for the vaccine; they can book online at one of the regional vaccination centres or directly with a participating community pharmacy. If you’re unable to book online, a telephone booking service is available for the regional vaccination centres, and appointments at community pharmacies can be made by either phoning the pharmacy itself or through the pharmacy’s own booking system.
Dr Gerry Waldron, Head of Health Protection at the PHA, said: “If you are eligible for the vaccine, book it without delay and help to protect yourself and those around you. Most people won’t receive any invitation – you just need to go ahead and book it as soon as you are in an eligible group. Vaccination is the most important thing we can do to protect our community against serious illnesses. When enough people get vaccinated, it’s harder for a disease to spread to those who can’t have vaccines. This will help protect you and others, and in time will allow all of us to do more of things that are important to us.
“You can choose to have your vaccine at either a trust vaccination centre, which you can book through the COVID-19 regional booking portal, or at your community pharmacy, which you can book with them directly. Sometimes the booking systems can be busy, but keep trying if they are and don’t put it off. If you are eligible, you will be able to get the vaccine."
Progress to date would not have been possible without significant availability of vaccines, including the Oxford-AstraZeneca one.
The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) has stated that the benefits of vaccination with this vaccine far outweigh any potential risks for people aged 30 and over, and for those who have underlying health conditions which put them at higher risk of severe COVID-19 disease, irrespective of age.
It is very important that everyone who has already had their first dose of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine gets their second dose of the same vaccine, irrespective of age, unless advised otherwise by a medical professional, which will only be in a very small number of cases. You can’t choose which vaccine you get – make sure you get both doses of whatever one you are offered.
Dr Waldron continued: “Everyone is looking forward to better times ahead, but it’s essential that we don’t become complacent. Even if you have had one or both of your COVID-19 vaccine doses, it is still important to continue to follow public health advice:
* Wear a face covering indoors where social distancing isn’t possible, or where it’s required, such as in shops, shopping centres, taxis, public transport and banks.
* You should also maintain a social distance of at least 2m (around 6ft) between you and anyone outside of your household, to minimise your exposure to the virus and reduce the potential of spreading the infection.
* It is also important to wash your hands properly, as this is one of the most effective things you can do to help prevent the spread of coronavirus. Wash hands regularly, and use sanitiser outside your home when hand washing isn’t possible, especially as you enter a building and after you have had contact with surfaces. Also try to avoid touching your face, and wash your hands as soon as you get home. If you sneeze or cough, ‘catch it, bin it, kill it.
* If you are indoors, try to keep the area well-ventilated.
Appointments are currently available at the regional vaccination centres and participating community pharmacists. You can book via:
Regional vaccination centre – book online at: covid-19.hscni.net/get-vaccinated or If you are eligible for a vaccination centre appointment and cannot make an online booking, you can book your vaccination by telephone on 0300 200 7813. The telephone booking service is available from every day from 8.00 am to 8.00 pm.
Community Pharmacy – to find out which community pharmacies are participating click on the map: pha.site/pharmacy-covid-vaccinations or if you don’t have online access phone your local pharmacy directly.
At certain times there may be a rush for appointments. Do not be put off if you can’t get booked immediately. Keep trying. Everyone who wants a vaccine and is eligible will get one.
It’s important to be informed about the COVID-19 vaccine. To find out more information about vaccine safety and effectiveness see pha.site/vaccineinformation
To find out who is currently eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine see: www.nidirect.gov.uk/articles/get-covid-19-vaccination-northern-ireland