Omicron is highly likely to be the dominant strain in NI by Christmas - and people should get their vaccine booster dose as soon as possible.
That’s the message from Chief Medical Officer Professor Sir Michael McBride, as the accelerated extension of the booster programme to 18-29-year olds is brought forward to today (Sunday) with immediate effect.
This means the COVID-19 vaccine booster programme is open to everyone aged 18 and over in NI who received their second dose at least three months ago.
Capacity may be limited at some Trust vaccination centres, so please check Trust social media channels for the most up to date information. Trust websites will be updated in due course.
Boosters are also being provided by GPs and community pharmacies.
The Chief Medical Officer said: “The Omicron variant is spreading rapidly and is likely to be dominant or close to dominant in Northern Ireland by Christmas. Given its infectiousness, the risk of any of us catching the virus is most definitely heightened. That’s why getting the protection of a booster dose is so important and urgent.
“A booster dose strengthens and deepens protection. This is about training and educating our immune systems to deal with a COVID-19 infection. Booster doses are like an advanced course of learning, making our bodies more skilled in combating the virus. You lose out without a booster.
“I know some people are worried about potential effects of the booster in the run-up to Christmas. My advice to them is straightforward - the potential effects of Covid are much more concerning. The vast majority of reactions to the vaccines are minor and short-lived - like having a sore arm for a day.
“So please don’t wait to get your booster. And if you are still holding back on your first or second dose, now is the time to come forward. Omicron is here and we must all use every defence that is available to us.
“While vital, booster doses can’t do the job by themselves. We also need to keep making safer choices in our daily lives to stop the virus spreading.”
Walk-in options are widely available at Trust centres but if you are 30 or over, you can book your slot at https://covid-19.hscni.net/get-vaccinated/
Bookings will be available for 18-29 year olds from later this week.
GPs across Northern Ireland are continuing their sustained booster dose push, arranging an ongoing programme of booster jab clinics for their patients. Participating pharmacies are offering booster doses by appointment and, in some cases, on a walk-in basis.
A new feature on the online booking platform gives you instant information on Trust and pharmacy vaccination clinics near you. You can type in your postcode or town and find out what’s being provided close to your home. https://vaccinations.covid-19.hscni.net/location-search
For those not yet vaccinated, first and second doses are also available at the Trust centres and participating pharmacies.
* Caution is needed when comparing daily Omicron figures for UK regions, given different testing strategies and testing totals in each region.
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