Northern Ireland’s coronavirus vaccination programme is moving at fast pace, the Deputy Chief Medical Officer has said.
Dr Chada was speaking to Belfast Live Editor Ryan Smith on Friday afternoon as it was announced that people who received a shielding letter because they are Clinically Extremely Vulnerable will be able to book their Covid-19 vaccination appointments.
Giving an update into the current vaccine figures, Dr Chada said over 400,000 vaccines have been conducted across Northern Ireland with almost 375,000 people having received their first jab.
Dr Chada added: “What we are currently embarking on or indeed have embarked on is one of the biggest public health interventions in modern history with the roll out of the vaccine.
“Northern Ireland embarked on this very exciting journey and indeed a very important journey bank in 2020. It is gathering pace now.
“I was looking at some figures today and these almost change by the minute but we have already conducted over 400,000 vaccinations in Northern Ireland and almost 375,000 people have had at least their first dose.
“That is a very exciting time and a very important time for us. It is a time of great seriousness too.
“We are doing this to try and protect people from coronavirus and protect their risk from either serious illness or even death. We have been trying to reach those who are most affected by the virus.
“We have been working through the vaccination guidance as systematically as we possibly can. We started with the very elderly age groups including people living in care homes and health and social care staff. We worked down the groupings. The roll out has been carrying on at pace in Northern Ireland.”
Dr Chada went on to praise the staff who have been working on the vaccination programme.
He said that when asked to roll up their sleeves and do something important, the people of Northern Ireland are the ones to do it.
Explaining how teams are working through the vaccines, Dr Chada said they are systematically going through the group lists.
“What we want to do is to vaccinate as many of those recognised as being clinically extremely vulnerable.
“We know that this group of people, if they contract Covid-19, are much more likely to have potentially a serious outcome.
“That’s why they are high up in terms of their prioritisation for the vaccine. What we want to do is to make sure we reach that as quickly as possible.
“We are getting a flow of vaccines in which we will use to systematically vaccinate people as they fall into priority categories. We have already started vaccinating people between the ages of 65 and 69 and have had a huge success in vaccinating people older than that as well.
“There is going to be a very big push on the vaccination of the clinically vulnerable group now in the next few weeks.
“We will work our way down into other groups for example the sort of people who have underlying conditions that would be used to receiving the seasonal flu vaccination but there will obviously be some slight alterations according to guidance. We will get to people and will be working down the age groups as well.
“In terms of looking forward into the next month or two and into the Spring we should have been able to vaccinate quite a large proportion of people with underlying conditions who are clinically vulnerable and also over the age of 50 as well.”
And as the Executive is due to meet on Thursday of next week to discuss the current restrictions, Dr Chada said there are many factors to be considered.
“Everyone throughout Northern Ireland has had to abide by restrictions and their lives haven’t been as normal as the way they would have wanted it,” he told Belfast Live.
“It is still a huge tribute to the people of Northern Ireland. That is something we are all aware of.
“We are dealing with new variants of the virus which is something we couldn’t have predicted. We have to keep on doing what we are doing. That doesn’t mean that there will not be changes to restrictions.
“That is a decision for the Executive. We have made good progress over the last couple of months and anything that does happen has to be carefully calibrated. We want the R number below 1 for as long as possible. That will ease pressure on hospitals.
“I fully understand other important things need to be considered as well. It’ll be a very careful balancing act before those making decisions would decide the most appropriate road map in the next phase of this.”
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