Health Minister Robin Swann has confirmed a major expansion of NI’s COVID-19 vaccination programme to help meet current and forthcoming demand for booster doses.
The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) today recommended the phased extension of the booster programme to all adult age groups.
It advised that boosters should now be offered to everyone aged 18 and over in order of descending age groups, with priority given to the vaccination of older adults and those in COVID-19 at-risk groups. Booster vaccination can now be given from three months of completion of the primary course.
The Health Minister stated: “I very much welcome the JCVI’s guidance which has been updated in light of the emerging situation with the Omicron variant.
“Our vaccination programme will continue to pull out all the stops to bring booster doses to all eligible age groups as quickly as possible.
“Our booster programme will now in many ways mirror the primary dose vaccination programme which steadily moved its way down through the different age groups over a number of months.
“We have now delivered more than three million COVID-19 jabs in Northern Ireland in under a year. That is a remarkable achievement by a health system under severe and relentless pressure.”
The Minister continued: “I would again urge people not to be put off getting their first, second or booster doses due to concerns or speculation about the Omicron variant.
“It remains very likely that vaccination will continue to protect against severe illness from Omicron as it does against other variants of SARS-CoV-2.
“In addition, our vaccines provide very good protection against the Delta variant, which remains the predominant strain in Northern Ireland at this point.”
The Minister revealed details of Health Trust vaccination hubs and clinics that are opening this week across Northern Ireland. These will complement the ongoing vaccination work of GPs and local pharmacies, significantly increasing the system’s capacity to deliver boosters.
In addition, the pharmacy sector is finalising plans for a special weekend of additional walk-in booster vaccination clinics this Saturday and Sunday (December 4 and 5).
In the first instance, most Trust vaccination hubs and clinics will principally focus on boosters for the over 50s. Anyone in this category should be called by their GP but can also attend Community Pharmacy or Trust Centres if they have not yet received their booster. Trust centres are also providing ongoing first and second doses for all eligible age groups and will open soon to the 40-49 year olds for their booster doses.
People in the 50 plus age range now have a choice of waiting to be invited in by their GP for their booster, or going to a local pharmacy or the Trust Centres.
The division of roles between the vaccine providers will be kept under ongoing review and is likely to be updated in the coming weeks.
Patricia Donnelly, head of NI’s vaccination programme, said: “We need to make the best use of all our vaccinators across our health and care system, which is why we have to divide up responsibilities at this point. I want to thank all those people who have come forward in the last year to be vaccinators – we need you and ask that you step forward to support us once again in this important expansion of the programme.
“The roll-out of boosters to the entire adult population will be on a staged basis, given the JCVI recommendation and the required gap between second dose and booster.”
Most Trust vaccination hubs are offering both walk-in and booked appointments.
Bookings can be made online at https://covid-19.hscni.net/get-vaccinated/
A list of pharmacies offering the booster jab is available on the Health and Social Care Board website www.hscboard.hscni.net/booster-covid19-vaccination/
The Trust vaccination clinic details are listed below:
South Eastern Trust
Ulster Hospital and Lagan Valley Hospital vaccination centres are open for walk-ins and booking appointments for boosters and first and second doses of Pfizer for all eligible age groups. Clinics will also be held this weekend in Downshire Hospital, Downpatrick
Ulster Hospital – 9am-7.30pm Mon-Thurs; Friday-Sunday9am-4pm
Lagan Valley Hospital, Primary & Community Care Centre – 9.30am-7pm Monday and Wednesday, and Tuesday, Thursday and Friday 9.30am-4pm.
Great Hall, Downshire Hospital, Downpatrick – 9.30am-3.30pm, Saturday and Sunday only
Royal Victoria Hospital vaccination centre is open for walk-in vaccinations and bookings between 8.30am and 6pm every day.
Belfast Central Fire Station, Ormeau Avenue, facing the Gasworks:
Saturday 4 & Sunday 5 December: 10am-6pm
Walk-in vaccinations available for:
First dose Pfizer: age 12 +
First & Second dose Pfizer: age 16 +
Boosters: age 40 +
Rushmere Shopping Centre, Craigavon – Tuesday 30 November, 12pm-8pm; Thursday 2 December, 2pm – 8.30pm; Friday 3 December, 2pm-8.30pm
Staff Vaccination Clinic, St Luke’s Hospital, Armagh – Wednesday 1 December, 9.30am- 5.30pm; Saturday 4 December, 10am-5pm
Newry Leisure Centre – Thursday 2 December, 12pm – 8pm
Seagoe Parish Centre, Portadown – Friday 3 December, 8.30am-5pm
The Junction, Dungannon – Sunday 5 December, 9.30am-5.30pm
Templemore Sports Complex, Derry/Londonderry
Lakeland Forum, Enniskillen
1 December to 14 December
An Chroi Community Centre, Hillcrest Road, Waterside, Derry/Londonderry
Omagh Leisure Centre, Omagh
15th December to 21 December
Centres will be open seven days a week, 9.00am-4.30pmeach day except for Mondays and Thursdays when they will instead open 12.00pm-8.00pm to facilitate evening appointments.
Bookings are now live for all centres. Walk-ins will also be facilitated at each site.
The Northern Trust vaccination centre at Seven Towers Leisure Centre is open this week for bookings only, 9am-5pm, Monday to Sunday (closed 12.30-1pm)
Next week they are changing hours to offer evening clinics, so it will be 12-8pm Monday to Friday and 9am-5pm Saturday and Sunday.