‘Stubbornness’ the culprit in NI’s vaccination outlier status

Five deaths linked to Covid-19 on Monday, bringing fatalities to 18 over past three days

The SSE Arena in Belfast at which mass vaccination has been wound down. Photograph: David Young/PA

The SSE Arena in Belfast at which mass vaccination has been wound down. Photograph: David Young/PA

 

An “Ulster thranness” is to blame for the North becoming an outlier in Covid-19 vaccination uptake, a leading GP has warned.

Dr Tom Black, chairman of the British Medical Association, said younger people refusing to get jabbed are putting others at risk both from the virus and through clogging up badly needed hospital and intensive care beds.

Two-thirds of people in hospitals in the North with Covid 19 are not vaccinated.

Because of 100 per cent vaccination rates among the over 60s, and with more than 90 per cent of people in their 50s inoculated, it means most hospitalisations are likely among the under 50s, he said.

“What we are going to see now is severe illness and harm coming to younger people because they are not vaccinated,” said the Derry-based GP.

“Younger people are saying, ‘I don’t need it so I’m not getting it’.”

Covid-19 is already becoming a disease “of younger people who are not vaccinated” despite the “urban myth” that the virus does not affect them, said Dr Black.

“It is an Ulster thranness,” he said, a colloquial term for stubbornness.

“And it is having an impact on the health service, with hundreds of beds occupied [by Covid-19 patients], multiple beds in intensive care occupied. That is a lot of hospital resources being used for Covid that really doesn’t need to be.”

The pressure on hospitals “stops us dealing with routine surgery and cancer patients and deprives other people of services.”

Latest figures show 61 per cent of people aged between 18 and 29 in the North have received at least one jab, compared to 64 per cent in the 20 to 29 years age group in the Republic.

Some 71 per cent of those in their 30s in the North have been jabbed, compared to 82 per cent in the Republic. For those aged in their 40s, 84 per cent are at least partially vaccinated in the North, compared to 89 per cent in the Republic.

Coronavirus by the numbers

Another five deaths linked to Covid-19 have been reported on Monday, bringing the number of notified deaths to 18 over the past three days. The death toll since the start of the pandemic has risen to 2,199.

A further 872 people tested positive for the virus over a 24-hour period up to Monday afternoon, down from 1,072 on Sunday.

There are 311 patients with the virus in hospital, 34 of whom are in intensive care.

Dr Frances O’Hagan, BMA deputy chairwoman in the region, blamed rising cases on a “I can’t bothered” attitude to vaccination among younger people.

“The fact the [vaccination] centres were closing caught some on the hop, and we did see a flurry in the last couple of days,” she told BBC’s Good Morning Ulster.

“But there is hesitancy and there is ‘well I can’t be bothered’.”

Dr O’Hagan urged younger people to get vaccinated.

Over the weekend, mass vaccination centres stopped administering first jabs, except for a small group of under-18s and children aged 12 to 15 years old who live with someone who is immunosuppressed.

“Pop-up mobile clinics” will continue to travel throughout the region over the coming weeks – offering the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines.

Pharmacies will also continue the vaccination programme, offering the AstraZeneca vaccine to the over-40s, while a limited number will also administer the Moderna vaccine for anyone aged 18 and over.

A decision was taken to wind down the mass vaccination centres – including at Belfast’s SSE Arena and leisure centres around the region – as healthcare staff were badly needed back at hospitals, which are feeling the pressure of rising admissions.

Dr O’Hagan said the centres had been open to people over the age of 18 – on a walk-in basis – for several weeks and that “people have had ample opportunity” to get their vaccinations.

Other than “a bit of a flurry in the last few days” the numbers attending the centres had been “dropping steadily”, she said.

As case numbers rise “of course we need to be worried about it”, she added.

On reports that Britain is to offer 32 million booster jabs starting next month, Dr O’Hagan said nothing has been confirmed yet but that she was anticipating they would be administered alongside the flu jab.