Health Minister Robin Swann has announced details of a further acceleration of the COVID-19 vaccine booster programme.
New initiatives have been taken in light of the expected surge of Omicron variant cases in Northern Ireland in January.
The number of confirmed Omicron variant cases in NI has now increased to 10.
With immediate effect, Health Trust vaccination hubs will be open for walk-in boosters for anyone aged 30 and over who is at least three months from their second vaccine dose.
Options to further reduce the age range are under active consideration.
A series of additional initiatives are being finalised to further increase capacity to deliver booster doses.
Trust hubs are extending their opening hours and days of operation with immediate effect and hundreds of additional vaccinators are in the process of being recruited. The deferral of some planned routine health service activity is also under consideration to free up further capacity.
The Minister said: “The booster programme has been accelerated significantly in recent weeks and vaccination numbers are similar to the peak of the primary dose programme earlier this year.
“Given the scale of the potential threat posed by the Omicron variant, we are taking additional emergency measures to get as many booster doses as possible administered before the end of this month.
“GPs, community pharmacies and Trust hubs will all have a central and vital role in making this happen.
“It is also really important that people who are not yet vaccinated come forward for their first dose without delay. I am really encouraged by the increased number of first doses delivered in recent weeks.”
The Minister added: “It must be emphasised that we cannot rely solely on the booster programme to combat Omicron. We all have a vital role to play in not spreading the virus. We need to keep making safer choices in our daily lives and to regularly use lateral flow tests to help protect each other.”
People are asked to be patient in the event of queues at vaccination centres. The teams will get your jab to you as soon as they can.
Notes to editors:
- For media enquiries please contact the DoH Press Office by email email@example.com.
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- The Executive Information Service operates an out of hours service For Media Enquiries Only between 1800hrs and 0800hrs Monday to Friday and at weekends and public holidays. The duty press officer can be contacted on 028 9037 8110.
- Free Lateral Flow Tests are available from a range of convenient sources, including:
- collection at over 580 sites across Northern Ireland, including over 500 community pharmacies
- workforce testing schemes
- online home delivery
- Quarterly Carers Statistics for Northern Ireland (April – June 2023) 22 September 2023
- Extension to the terms of appointment of two Non-executive Directors to the Northern Ireland Ambulance Service 22 September 2023
- Unused medicines cost Northern Ireland health system £18m per year 20 September 2023
- Department of Health statement 18 September 2023