Health Minister Robin Swann has praised the work of the COVID-19 vaccination teams who have now administered the first doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine to more than 25,000 care home residents and frontline Health and Social Care staff.
To date, 25,116 vaccine doses have been administered.
Those receiving the jabs include 8,031 care home residents – more than half of the Northern Ireland care home population – and 9,407 care home staff, representing an uptake of 75% so far. Vaccination teams have delivered the doses at 348 care homes – almost three quarters of all care home facilities in Northern Ireland.
Within the local Southern Trust, 1,177 residents and 1,149 staff have been vaccinated at 49 care homes. In addition, some 1,088 HSC staff have also been administered the vaccine.
The Health Minister said: “The Department of Health has worked closely with the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency to develop a deployment model for care homes that takes into account the unique characteristics of this vaccine, and that includes transport requirements designed to ensure integrity and efficacy of the vaccine.
“This is a huge achievement and means that Northern Ireland has led the way by beginning to vaccinate those who have top priority, including some of the most vulnerable in our society as well as our frontline workers upon whom we depend so much at this critical time for the health and social care system. My thanks go to all those who have worked so hard to make it possible.”
In addition, 7,678 Health and Social Care (HSC) staff have received the vaccine as part of the first priority groups determined by the JCVI (Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation.
All HSC staff will be offered the vaccine at seven dedicated vaccination clinics and will be called forward by their respective Trusts in the coming weeks. The clinics will be operating up to and including Christmas Eve, with further dates being added from 27 December.
The roll-out of Northern Ireland’s full vaccination programme will be accelerated by the approval of further vaccines. It is anticipated that the vaccination programme will continue until the summer of 2021. It will be undertaken on a phased basis, with priority given to age and other clinical vulnerability factors.
The Minister added: “The vaccination programme will grow rapidly and substantial numbers of staff will be vaccinated in the coming weeks, with this part of the programme due to be completed within the first quarter of 2021.
“We then intend to roll out the programme through primary care, which will be responsible for the vaccination of the majority of eligible individuals aged 50 years and over. GPs will start with oldest first and the impact will become apparent around the end of February or early March.
“The vaccine programme will take time and we will all have to wait our turn, so I must again urge everyone to remain ultra-vigilant over the Christmas period and the months ahead. Please stick to the regulations, follow the guidance and keep yourselves and your families safe. The vaccine has brought us new hope, but we’re still facing a tough winter ahead.”