Vaccination programme begins in Northern Ireland this morning

Death toll reaches 1,059 while total infections since outbreak now stands at 55,444

The rollout of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, which was approved last week, begins this morning in Northern Ireland with vaccinators first to get the jabs.

The first immunisationns are scheduled to begin at 8am at the Royal Victoria Hospital in west Belfast. Vaccinations will begin at the same time in England, Scotland and Wales.

Mobile units also are to be used so that care home residents will be among those being immunised in the first wave of the programme, health Minister Robin Swann said.

In the first tranche, Northern Ireland has been allocated 25,000 vaccines which, with two jabs being required, will allow for 12,500 people to be vaccinated before Christmas.


On Monday, Mr Swan’s department reported nine more Covid-19 deaths taking the Northern Ireland death toll to 1,059.

The department also reported 397 new confirmed cases of coronavirus, bringing the total since the outbreak of the pandemic in March to 55,444.

With Northern Ireland about to quit its current extended two-week lockdown on Friday the latest figures show a drop in the Covid-19 death rate. There were 48 virus deaths in the past week compared with 63 deaths in the previous week.

Hospital bed occupancy currently is at 99 per cent. There are 416 patients receiving Covid treatment in Northern Ireland hospitals with 29 in intensive care and 21 on ventilators.

The Northern Ireland vaccination programme will take place at seven centres around the North, at the Royal Victoria Hospital and the Ulster Hospital in Dundonald in east Belfast, and at five leisure centres. The centres will operate 12 hours a day, seven days a week.

A total of 980 vaccinators are first in line to receive the jabs. There are also 770 people who have volunteered to become vaccinators, and they are likely to be high up the queue.

Mr Swann said care home residents also would be prioritised in the first phase of the programme.

“It is well documented that the logistical requirements for the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine pose particular challenges for care home deployment,” he said.

“We have been working very hard on these issues, in consultation with the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency. I am pleased to be able to confirm that we are satisfied that deployment to care homes can now proceed in the coming days,” he added.

“The solution involves mobile teams operating from the different Trust vaccination centres located across the province. I know confirmation of these plans will be very welcome news for care home residents, their families and staff.

“We are currently considering how these arrangements might be extended to include over 80s in the community.”

Mr Swann said the beginning of the vaccinations on Tuesday would be a “hugely important day and we can to look forward into next year with a degree of optimism”.

“However, it needs to be stressed again and again that vaccination of the population is a massive undertaking that will take many months to complete,” he said.

Meanwhile, the PSNI has reported that 923 penalty Covid-19 notices have been issued across Northern Ireland, with fines starting at £200. This includes 49 fines of £1,000 each for failing to self isolate. In November the minimum fine was increased from £60 to £200.

Most fines were issued in Belfast (408), followed by 119 in the Derry and Strabane council area and 99 in the Armagh, Banbridge and Craigavon council area.

Gerry Moriarty

Gerry Moriarty

Gerry Moriarty is the former Northern editor of The Irish Times