Carers aged 60 to 64 and patients with conditions such as epilepsy, heart disease and asthma are now eligible for the Covid-19 vaccine.
Health officials today announced that they have further extended the vaccination programme.
The latest development will see the start of a major vaccination drive for carers, with GPs and the regional vaccination centres both playing their part.
Family doctors will be providing the jab to people over the age of 18 with underlying medical conditions but who did not receive a shielding letter, such as patients with asthma, heart disease and epilepsy.
This extended target group is expected to largely mirror those who receive the winter flu vaccine each year.
GP surgery staff are in the process of ringing eligible patients to invite them to attend vaccination clinics.
At the same time, GPs will continue to complete the vaccination of patients over the age of 70.
The Department of Health has asked for patience as it is anticipated that this phase of the programme will take several weeks to complete.
In parallel, carers aged between 60 and 64 will also have the option of booking a vaccination at one of Northern Ireland’s regional centres.
An appointment can be made for anyone born between April 1, 1956, and March 31, 1961, who is in receipt of Carer’s Allowance or Carer’s Credit, are a registered care home care partner, or are the main carer of an elderly or disabled person whose welfare may be at risk if the carer falls ill.
A statement from the Department of Health said: “Carers in lower age groups can be assured that we will expand the age eligibility as soon as possible in the coming days and weeks.
“The regional vaccination centres will also continue to take vaccination bookings for those aged 65 to 69 and for those who have received a shielding letter because they are clinically extremely vulnerable.
“In addition, anyone aged 70 plus who has not yet had their vaccination from their GP now has the option of booking at a regional centre.
“People must get their first and second doses from the same provider – they must not try to mix and match between GPs and vaccination centres.”
Health Minister Robin Swann said: “I would really encourage anyone who is eligible for vaccination at a regional centre to book as soon as possible.
“The vaccination programme is making good progress and I am very pleased that we are able to announce these further extensions today.
“It had been planned to begin vaccinating carers in early March. I am delighted that we are now able to bring this forward, on a staggered basis.
“As ever, the rate of our progress through the eligible groups will depend on available supplies of vaccines.”
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