The number of Covid-19 vaccines administered in Northern Ireland has passed the 220,000 mark.
atest figures, issued by the Department of Health on Friday evening, show a total of 196,131 first doses and 24,070 second doses administered – bringing the overall total to 220,201.
In addition, mobile vaccination teams have administered first doses in all of Northern Ireland’s care homes – and second doses to over 80% of the homes.
Healthcare staff have vaccinated 83% of the over 80 population and started to vaccinate 70 – 79 year olds through the GP programme.
Earlier this week, the Department of Health announced a twin track approach to accelerating NI’s vaccination programme – GPs will be focusing on the 70 plus age group with the Astra Zeneca vaccine, while seven regional vaccination centres will in parallel offer Pfizer vaccination appointments to 65-69 year-olds.
The aim is to offer everyone over 65 here a vaccine by the end of February.
People who are Clinical Extremely Vulnerable (CEV) to Covid-19 are also a priority next month.
Online booking opened on Wednesday night for 65-69 year-olds to book their vaccination appointments and in the first 30 hours of the online portal, 39,825 people had booked their jabs. Intensive work was also undertaken to address initial teething problems with the online system, linked to high levels of demand.
A further significant consignment of the Astra Zeneca vaccine is due here next week for immediate distribution to GPs. This will help facilitate a rapid acceleration of vaccinations for those over 70 and CEV patients.
Meanwhile, a large-scale UK trial for a new coronavirus vaccine indicates it is 89.3% effective against the virus. The Novavax vaccine is expected to be available across the UK in the second half of this year, if approved for use by the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA).
People in Northern Ireland have played a key role in the development of Novavax as nearly 500 participants were recruited from here for the trial, led locally by researchers from Queen’s University and the Belfast Health and Social Care Trust.
Health Minister Robin Swann said the vaccination programme has been a massive logistical exercise.
He said: “I am very encouraged by the strong start we have made. It should be remembered that the first Covid-19 vaccine approval was only announced last month, with the second approval coming some four weeks later. We have made great strides forward since then.
“There will inevitably be frustrations along the way. We will get to everyone – we are getting to thousands more each day.”
Chief Medical Officer Dr Michael McBride added: “The rapid development of Covid-19 vaccines is our long-term route map out of this pandemic. We should be rightly proud that Northern Ireland continues to play its part in the historic global effort to develop new drug treatments and vaccines. Throughout our response we have all come together in support of each other. We continue to see the benefits of the partnership between academia, health and industry and this another example.”