The number of people who have received their first coronavirus jab in Northern Ireland is rapidly rising, with the opportunity continually being rolled out to more groups.

Sister Joanna Sloan, who heads up the vaccination programme at the Belfast Health and Social Care Trust, was first in Northern Ireland to roll up her sleeve for the injection on December 8.

Just over two months on, 466,524 jabs had been delivered across Northern Ireland by February 19 – 436,143 of which were first doses and 30,381 second doses, with both the Belfast Trust and Northern Trust areas reaching the milestone of 50,000 vaccinations each.

Northern Ireland’s vaccination programme is being delivered in phases through Trust-run regional vaccination centres, where the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is used and GP practices, which administer the AstraZeneca jab. HSC Trusts are also providing the Pfizer/BioNTech jab to health and social care staff and to care homes via mobile teams.

Plans have also been announced to open a vaccination centre at SSE Arena by April for those 60 and under who have not been vaccinated.

The vaccination programme is based on recommendations from the UK’s Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) which said “the first priorities for the COVID-19 vaccination programme should be the prevention of mortality and the maintenance of the health and social care systems – as the risk of mortality from COVID-19 increases with age, prioritisation is primarily based on age”.

As a result, health and social care staff, care home residents and those over 80 were first to get their jabs.

Those eligible for a vaccine now:

  • All carers aged 18 and over who are the main carer for someone elderly or disabled

  • Clinically extremely vulnerable people aged 16 or over at on March 31 with a shielding letter

  • Medically vulnerable adults who did not get a shielding letter who’ve been invited to book by a GP or hospital specialist

  • Those aged 65 and older as of March 31, 2021

  • Health and social care staff

  • All care home residents

The 7 vaccinations centres:

  • Belfast Trust – Royal Victoria Hospital

  • South Eastern Trust – Ulster Hospital

  • Southern Trust – South Lakes Leisure Centre, Craigavon

  • Northern Trust – Seven Towers Leisure Centre, Ballymena

  • Western Trust – Foyle Arena; Omagh Leisure Centre and Enniskillen’s Lakeside Leisure Centre

The Primary Care based model operated by GPs started on January 4 and involves 321 Practices spread right across Northern Ireland who will be inviting their patients in to receive a COVID-19 vaccine.

Due to the social distancing measures required, GPs will deploy a mixture of models ranging from practice clinics and vaccination drives at community halls or drive through arrangements in carparks.

While those booking through Trusts can organise their jab online or by phone, GPs will invite their patients for vaccination in line with the JCVI prioritisation list. They started with all those aged 80 years or over, and are working their way down through the age cohorts.

People aged 18 plus who have underlying medical conditions but did not receive a shielding letter and largely mirror those who receive the winter flu vaccine, have recently been added to the list, as well as carers and 65-69-year-olds.

The Department of Health has asked all those who can now have a vaccine to book, first and foremost, online HERE.

However, if you do not have internet access, you can call 0300 200 7813 Monday to Friday, 8:30am to 5:30pm to organise your vaccination.

Everyone attending for a vaccine will be asked to show photo ID, proof of date of birth, and proof of your eligibility e.g. your shielding letter when you arrive at the vaccination centre.

If you are not in the eligible group, you will not be given your vaccination.

Those attending for a vaccine will receive 2 injections in total, at two separate appointments 10 weeks apart. These appointments will be booked at the same time – you do not need to book your second appointment separately.

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