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Sunday, February 28, 2021

Early deployment plans confirmed for Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine
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The Department of Health has set out its plans for the early deployment of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine in Northern Ireland.

The initial phase of the roll-out of the vaccination programme began today. The programme represents an unprecedented logistical exercise that will take many months to complete.  Progress will depend on available supply across the UK and is dependent on production and delivery schedules. The timescale for the approval of further vaccines will be an important factor in the wider roll-out of the programme.

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The process of determining clinical prioritisation is being closely guided by Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) advice.

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Early deployment in Northern Ireland has three central aims:

  • To protect vulnerable patients and residents at higher risk of severe disease and mortality.
  • To protect staff working in high risk areas for exposure
  • To protect staff members at highest personal risk of morbidity and mortality.

The exact timing of all plans will be subject to vaccine availability.

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The focus in the coming weeks will therefore include care home residents and staff (including supported living centres where the clinical risk is considered to be similar to a care home); health and social care staff working with patient groups at higher risk (including embedded support staff); staff working in higher risk settings; staff who are themselves at increased personal risk due to being in extremely vulnerable high risk categories or having other defined clinical risk factors.

In advance of the GP element of the programme starting, active consideration is being given to options for extending the programme to begin vaccinating over 80s in the community.

Departmental letter setting out the early deployment framework for the vaccine has been issued to Trusts.

Seven Trust vaccination centres are being established for the staff vaccination process. The locations are:

  • Belfast Trust – Royal Victoria Hospital, Belfast
  • South Eastern Trust – Ulster Hospital, Dundonald
  • Southern Trust – South Lake Leisure Centre, Craigavon
  • Northern Trust – Seven Towers Leisure Centre, Ballymena
  • Western Trust  –
    • Foyle Arena, Londonderry,
    • Omagh Leisure Centre, Omagh; and
    • Lakeside Leisure Centre, Enniskillen.

Mobile vaccination teams operating from Trust centres will take the vaccine to residents and staff in care homes across Northern Ireland.

Trust staff are working closely with care homes to ensure that arrangements are as safe and effective as possible.

HSC Trusts will inform their staff who are in the early deployment groups and encourage them to book their vaccinations through a digital booking platform.

Anyone who is pregnant or breast feeding, or who is planning to get pregnant in the next three months, is not advised to get the vaccine.

The full roll-out of the vaccine is scheduled to continue until the summer of 2021. Further population groups will be added to the programme on a phased basis, with priority given to age and other clinical vulnerability factors.

Subject to the availability of a suitable vaccine, it is intended from early January 2021 to expand roll-out of the programme through primary care led vaccination clinics.

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