The drive to administer first and second doses of COVID-19 vaccine across all of Northern Ireland’s care homes has been completed, Health Minister Robin Swann has confirmed.
Trust vaccination teams have been visiting care homes since the vaccination programme commenced in December. The last remaining homes have now been visited, the programme schedule has allowed sufficient time for outbreaks of infection to conclude and vaccination to subsequently be offered to those care homes.
The progress in vaccinating care homes has been hailed by Health Minister Robin Swann as an important milestone in the battle against COVID-19.
But the Minister has warned that measures to protect care home residents and staff from coronavirus will not be relaxed at this stage. These measures include strict infection prevention and control practices, maintenance of social distancing, use of personal protective equipment (PPE) and a programme of regular asymptomatic testing.
An important epidemiology study is now commencing which will examine the impact of vaccination on care homes in NI. The learning emerging from this work will be of significant interest.
The Minister said: “Vaccination will provide vital protection to our care home residents. It will save lives and reduce serious illness.
“My heartfelt thanks go all those involved in delivering the vaccination programme across our care homes. I very much welcome the fact that this aspect of our vaccination programme is completed.
“We will need to maintain a precautionary approach, particularly given the prevalence of the virus in the wider community and the fact that vaccination of the overall population remains at a relatively early stage.”
Deputy Chief Medical Officer Dr Lourda Geoghegan spelt out the key factors behind the continuing precautionary approach.