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Coronavirus: Delight as the first vaccine is administered but public is urged to stay vigilant

Enniskillen woman (90) is the first to be given the jab on historic day

The First and Deputy First Ministers expressed their delight that Covid-19 vaccinations were rolled out across Northern Ireland on Tuesday - but the public has been warned not to drop its guard against the deadly virus.

Margaret Keenan (90), who is originally from Enniskillen, was the first person in the world to receive a coronavirus vaccine.

She got her jab in Coventry on Tuesday morning, while 28-year-old nurse Joanna Sloan from Dundrum was the first person in Northern Ireland to receive one.

Coronavirus Data Graphs

Chair of the British Medical Association in Northern Ireland Dr Tom Black and former NHS doctor Dr Gabriel Scally both welcomed the start of the phased roll-out to older people, NHS staff and care home workers across the UK.

They stressed, however, that it will take time and urged people to stick to the safety guidelines.

The Department of Health (DoH) stated that the vaccination programme will take "many months" to complete and the exact timing of plans will be subject to vaccine availability.

Seven trust vaccination centres are currently being established for staff.

Dr Black said it was important that nursing home residents and staff, healthcare workers and those aged over 80 are vaccinated quickly.

First Minister Arlene Foster stated that the beginning of the vaccination process has created a pathway out of Covid-19.

"This is a very good day and we look forward to the vaccination being rolled out right across Northern Ireland," she said.

Deputy First Minister Michelle O'Neill added that despite the vaccine roll-out, further lockdown regulations cannot be ruled out. "We have to keep everything under review, everything must be on the table," she said. We cannot be certain but we can give people clarity around when it is going to happen. We've to keep the situation under daily review and that will continue throughout Christmas and the New Year."

Elsewhere, Health Minister Robin Swann welcomed the news that the vaccine reached its first care home on Tuesday.

A mobile team from the Belfast Trust vaccinated residents and staff at Palmerston Care Home in Sydenham.

Further vaccination deployments to care homes are planned for Wednesday, and the intention is to cover all homes right across Northern Ireland in the coming weeks.

"This has been an emotional day, as we start to allow ourselves to hope for a better future in 2021," said Mr Swann. "It is critical that we keep doing everything we can to stop the virus spreading, while we begin the process of vaccinating those considered most at risk from coronavirus."

DUP health spokesperson Pam Cameron said that the daily death figures are a "tough reminder" that the country is still in a second wave, while her Alliance counterpart Paula Bradshaw stated that care home residents must be vaccinated as quickly as possible.

The SDLP's Colin McGrath said Tuesday was a "day of hope" and Sinn Fein's Colm Gildernew added that it was a huge step forward.

The news came as the it was announced that a further 14 people had died after contracting the virus in Northern Ireland. It brings the death toll here to 1,073.

Another 351 people tested positive, bringing the total number of infections to 55,795.

As of yesterday, there were 421 Covid patients in hospitals in Northern Ireland, with 28 in intensive care, 20 of which were on ventilators.

Hospital occupancy is at 102% and there are 109 active outbreaks in care homes.

Belfast Telegraph