Statement from the Health Minister - 16 November 2020

Date published: 16 November 2020

Today Health Minister Robin Swann said: "I’m genuinely glad of this opportunity to come to the House today to try to clarify some of the issues regarding this year’s flu programme.

Minister Swann

"First of all let me assure Members, and even more importantly those listening at home, there is no shortage of ordered vaccines.

"In total this year 1,050,300 doses have been procured for the flu vaccination programme.  As of last Friday morning 826,890 doses had been delivered into Northern Ireland.  601,243 doses had been delivered to GPs and Trusts.

"I can confirm that as of this morning, following two further deliveries totalling 192,700 doses, the total vaccine delivered now stands at 1,019,590 doses. Around 30,000 doses of the childhood vaccine are still to be delivered and this is the only remaining order outstanding. 

"As was outlined by the Public Health Agency last month, uptake has been exceptional, with people getting the vaccine in higher numbers than ever before, so a temporary pause was placed on some aspects of the seasonal flu programme. Those additional vaccines are now available.

"In regards to the over 65’s vaccine, let me again reassure Members that there are significant quantities of vaccine available.  There are approximately 323,000 people over the age of 65 in Northern Ireland. Initially we aimed for an 85% uptake target – equating to 275,000 vaccines, so we purchased 286,000. Last month I approved the purchase of a further 10,000 vaccines bringing the total to 296,000.  Those final 10,000 additional vaccines arrived in Northern Ireland on Thursday 5 November.

"So the reports in the media today of Northern Ireland being almost 200,000 doses short of the flu vaccine for the over 65 age cohort and being unable to complete its vaccination programme, are simply not true.

"So once again I want to reassure everyone listening there is no shortage. Further plans are in place to procure even further quantities of vaccine at a later date if necessary.

"And finally, I would like to thank all our GPs and practice nurses for their expertise and persistence over recent weeks. This is an incredibly busy and pressurised time for them all, and yet without them our flu programme could simply not succeed."

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