Covid-19: North’s vaccination programme extended to people aged 25-29

Approximately 70% of adults in Northern Ireland have now received first vaccine dose

A vaccinator draws up the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine in Hexham, England. File photograph: Ian Forsyth/Getty Images

A vaccinator draws up the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine in Hexham, England. File photograph: Ian Forsyth/Getty Images

 

The North’s Covid-19 vaccination programme has been extended to people aged between 25 and 29.

The Department of Health in Northern Ireland announced the expansion of the vaccination programme as of Thursday.

Anyone born between May 1st, 1991, and July 31st, 1996, can now book an appointment at one of the regional trust vaccination centres, the department said, but warned that vaccine supplies remain limited.

People are asked to be patient in waiting for their vaccines, with additional vaccination slots for following weeks being released every Thursday.

The ongoing rollout of the vaccination programme in the North continues to be dependent on the availability of vaccine supplies, the department said.

In accordance with the latest advice from the UK’s Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), people under 40 who book to receive their vaccination at one of the trust centres receive the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.

Those under 40 who wish to make an “informed decision” to receive the AstraZeneca vaccine can book available slots at the SSE Arena in Belfast and at participating community pharmacies.

Under current advice from the JCVI people aged under 40 in the North are to be offered an alternative to the AstraZeneca vaccine where available because of a possible link between it and extremely rare blood clots.

‘Successful delivery’

The North’s Minister for Health, Robin Swann, said the expansion of the programme was “a further testament to the successful delivery of the vaccination programme in Northern Ireland”.

More than 1 million people, or approximately 70 per cent of the North’s adult population, have so far received their first dose of a Covid-19 vaccine in Northern Ireland, and more than 500,000 have received their second.

The Minister appealed to everyone who is eligible to book an appointment to receive the vaccine.

This was echoed by the North’s chief medical officer, Dr Michael McBride, who said that while the risk of severe disease was lower in younger people, some of them may get very sick.

“There is much we still have to learn about this virus and post-Covid syndrome, or ‘long Covid’, which can be very debilitating for some,” he said.

On Wednesday no further Covid-related deaths were reported in Northern Ireland, while a further 107 people tested positive for the virus there.

In the Republic, there was also no further deaths from Covid-19 announced, but 503 new cases were confirmed.

Air quality

As plans continue for further reopening of Irish society, an Oireachtas health committee heard on Wednesday that Ireland’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic had not placed enough focus on examining air quality and promoting good ventilation.

Orla Hegarty, of University College Dublin’s school of architecture, planning and environmental policy, said the public health advice has failed to get across the importance of good ventilation in preventing the spread of the disease.

“In buildings and vehicles, [viral particles] can build up, fill a space, linger for hours, and infect many people. Viral particles in the air behave like smoke and must be cleared out,” she said.

Ms Hegarty, a member of the Expert Advisory Group on Ventilation and Covid-19, said there initially was “resistance” to admitting Covid-19 spreads through aerosols and that the main focus had been on hand hygiene.

“I don’t feel the response has been adequate. I don’t think the public health message has been clear. The vast majority of people don’t know why [ventilation] is important,” she said.

Ms Hegarty said ventilation had formed a key part of the initial pandemic response in Asian countries but this had not been the case in most English-speaking western countries.

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