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Sunday, June 20, 2021

Department updates vaccination programme
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Keep coming forward for your first and second COVID-19 vaccine doses.

That’s the clear advice to the public, as the unprecedented drive to protect the population continues.

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Vaccines continue to save lives in Northern Ireland and to protect people from serious illness. The Astra Zeneca vaccine continues to be essential in the successful roll-out of our vaccination programme. Thanks to this programme, close to a million people here have already received their first vaccine dose, helping society to emerge carefully from lockdown.

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Following the latest advice from the JCVI (Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation), people aged under 40 will be offered the Pfizer-BioNTech in NI through the regional Trust vaccination centres.

Anyone of any age who has had a first dose of Astra Zeneca should proceed with their second dose of this same vaccine.

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The JCVI has advised that those aged under 40 may still make an informed choice to receive the Astra Zeneca vaccine, for instance where no alternative vaccine is available, or where someone has an appointment booked for vaccination in the coming days and may prefer not to reschedule to receive an alternative vaccine.

The JCVI’s updated advice relates to reports of extremely rare adverse events of concurrent thrombosis (blood clots) and thrombocytopenia (low platelet count) following vaccination with the first dose of AstraZeneca vaccine.

The JCVI has updated its risk/benefit advice in relation to age groups, in light of the current low incidence of disease and current and projected availability of alternative vaccines. In light of these factors, Pfizer is now its recommended vaccine for under 40’s.

The change means some logistical alterations to Northern Ireland’s vaccination programme. From Monday, May 10.

* People aged 40 plus can book Astra Zeneca first dose appointments at the SSE Arena vaccination centre and community pharmacies.

* People aged 30-39 can book their Pfizer first dose appointments at the other regional Trust vaccination centres across NI.

* People aged 30-39 can choose to make an informed decision to receive the AstraZeneca vaccine from participating community pharmacies if that is what they prefer or if they decide they would rather not wait to receive an alternative to the AstraZeneca vaccine.

* Anyone aged under 40 already booked for their first vaccine at one of the Trust centres, including the SSE Arena, will have this appointment honoured – with the Pfizer vaccine.

* Anyone of any age who has received an Astra Zeneca first dose should proceed with their second dose of Astra Zeneca. That’s unless they had an extreme adverse reaction to the first dose.

Head of the NI vaccination programme Patricia Donnelly said: “Protecting our adult population through vaccination is a huge and unprecedented undertaking. Logistical challenges are inevitable, but the programme has already proved itself to be highly resilient.

“I would again appeal for patience from the public, as we reset the programme in light of the updated JCVI advice.

“Pfizer supplies remain steady but limited, so our progress with the 30-39 age group will be limited for the next few weeks. Likewise, those under 30 will have to wait a few weeks before being offered appointments for their first dose.”

Chief Medical Officer Dr Michael McBride said: “It is important to reiterate that the potential risk associated with the AZ first dose is extremely rare and that the threat from COVID-19 is much higher for the majority of adults.

“Getting vaccinated against this virus gives us hope – it protects us and helps us to start reclaim normality. I am looking forward to getting my second dose of Astra Zeneca in the near future and I would again encourage everyone to come forward without delay for their first and second jabs when it’s their turn.”

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