More than 100,000 Covid-19 vaccinations given in Northern Ireland

More than 100,000 Covid-19 vaccinations given in Northern Ireland

John Grey, 84, receives the first of two doses of the Oxford/AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine, administered by Dr Michael McKenna, at Falls Surgery on the Falls Road, Belfast. Picture: Liam McBurney/PA

More than 100,000 coronavirus vaccinations have been administered in Northern Ireland.

Stormont Health Minister Robin Swann said the programme is being stepped up but is dependent on the availability of supplies of the vaccines.

“By close of play yesterday (Tuesday), 109,259 doses had been administered, with 91,419 people having received their first dose,” he told an Executive press conference in Belfast.

“458 out of 483 (95%) of our care homes have received their first dose, and 67% their second.

“With our GP-led vaccinations barely off the starting blocks, already close to 20% of our over-80s have received a jab.

“The programme will be scaled up rapidly as supplies allow, and I have to emphasise again that availability of supplies is the key limiting factor at present, not locations or staffing or operating hours. Supplies are limited.

“We cannot vaccinate everyone right now, much as we would like to, but we will get there, steadily and systematically.

“The supplies will keep coming in batches and we will keep prioritising in line with the Joint Committee on Vaccinations and Immunisation guidance.”

Health Minister Robin Swann during a press conference in Parliament Buildings, Stormont (Press Eye/PA)

Asked whether he was considering asking the Army for help administering the vaccinations to free up health staff, Mr Swann said conversations remain ongoing with the Ministry of Defence.

“One of the continual engagements we actually have on a departmental level is with the Ministry of Defence and with the armed forces, that has been ongoing,” he said.

“Since the first pandemic they’ve been able to help us with logistical guidance, with logistical advice and also with some of the very crucial transfers that we had to do during the first wave, taking those critical patients across to facilities in the north east of England.

“We continually utilise our armed forces here in Northern Ireland and the conversation is a piece of work that continues even at this present time.”

Meanwhile, Mr Swann said lockdown in Northern Ireland is producing results, with the number of cases dropping, but added “the challenge is to keep it there”.

A woman wearing a face mask walks past a public information sign in Belfast (Liam McBurney/PA)

He said restrictions will be kept under review by the Executive, and ministers “may well have some further challenging decisions to make by early February”.

“We will have to avoid easing restrictions too early or too widely, the situation in our hospitals is too precious for that,” he said.

Chief scientific adviser Professor Ian Young said the average number of new cases of coronavirus per day in the region had risen to an average of more than 2,000 a day.

He said that while the number of cases is falling, they remain at a “very high level”.

“Even now as we see the numbers falling, getting lower, they remain at a higher level than at any time in wave one or wave two of this epidemic,” he said.

“So, what everyone is doing is working to reduce cases, but we still have a long way to go.”

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