Over 50% of care home residents in the north have taken COVID-19 vaccine with over-50s to get theirs from January: Health Minister Robin Swann

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Over two thirds of care homes and more than half of care home residents in the north have received their first dose of vaccination against COVID-19 with the programme for eligible people over 50 in the wider community expected to be rolled out through local GP practices from January.

The progress was outlined by Robin Swann at a meeting of the Stormont Health Committee this afternoon.

The Health Minister described it as a 'huge achievement' and said that the north was 'leading the way across the UK by vaccinating those that had been recommended by the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) as the number one priority to receive the vaccine.'

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Thousands of people have already received their first doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, he explained.

Robin Swann addressing the committee on Tuesday.Robin Swann addressing the committee on Tuesday.
Robin Swann addressing the committee on Tuesday.

"As of close of play yesterday (Monday) 309 care homes had been vaccinated. That's over two thirds of all homes. 7,311 care home residents have received the first vaccine dose. That's over 50 per cent of residents and over 8,600 care home staff have been vaccinated as well.

"Overall there have been just over 20,000 vaccines administered up until the close of play yesterday and I expect that figure to grow quite rapidly and that will do so because Trusts now have their vaccination sites in operation and substantial numbers of staff will be vaccinated in the coming days and weeks.

"Trusts plan to actually run these clinics up to 5 p.m. on December 24 and then will reopen again on Sunday, December 27," said the minister.

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Health care staff and care home residents are at the start of the queue for vaccination, however, pending the approval and availability of other suitable vaccines GP practices will start contacting people within the wider community within a few weeks.

"Ultimately all health and social care workers will have the opportunity to be vaccinated which is expected to be completed within the first quarter of next year.

"Chair, members will be aware that there have been a very small number of suspected adverse reactions to the vaccine. It's not unknown for vaccines to produce allergic reactions in a small number of cases and we will continue to be guided by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) on the safety and effective deployment of the vaccine and, subject to the availability of a suitable vaccine from early January 2021, it is intended to roll-out our programme through primary care-led vaccination clinics which will be responsible for the vaccination of the vast majority of eligible individuals aged 50 years and over.

"GPs are planning to swiftly work their way down through the eligible cohorts starting with the oldest first and the impact of the vaccination programme should become apparent at the end of February/beginning of March," said Mr. Swann.

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