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Fresh plea to young people to play their part by getting jab

Protect yourselves and loved ones and have the chance to go abroad, urges chief medical officer McBride


Thumbs up: A woman outside the new mobile vaccine clinic at Queen’s. Credit: Presseye

Thumbs up: A woman outside the new mobile vaccine clinic at Queen’s. Credit: Presseye

Thumbs up: A woman outside the new mobile vaccine clinic at Queen’s. Credit: Presseye

Young people who think they are immune to the effects of Covid-19 have been urged to get vaccinated so they can enjoy some summer sun.

Health bosses said it was vital as many people as possible were vaccinated in the coming weeks to allow crucial services, such as red-flag surgery, to continue without disruption as a fourth wave of Covid looms.

Increasing the number of people who have two doses of Covid-19 vaccine will also prevent the likelihood of a repeat of scenes from the end of last year, when patients were treated in ambulances outside A&Es as the NHS creaked under the strain of the pandemic.

Speaking at a briefing on Wednesday afternoon, chief medical officer Dr Michael McBride and chief scientific adviser Professor Ian Young said they were optimistic Northern Ireland could hit its vaccination target of 90% of the eligible population by the end of the month.

Coronavirus Data Graphs

However, they acknowledged there were some young people who were avoiding vaccination because they did not believe they were at risk from the virus.

According to the latest Department of Health statistics, 53.38% of people aged between 18 and 29 have received their first dose, while 66.94% of 30 to 39-year-olds have received one dose.

Only a quarter of people aged from 18 to 39 have had two doses.

Prof Young said: “In terms of young people and why they should get vaccinated, I will make three points.

"Firstly, there are many of our young people who will be motivated by a desire to help others. There is a very clear message that, by coming forward for vaccination, you are playing your part as you are clearly benefitting your parents, your grandparents, the older and vulnerable throughout all of our society.

"I would like to think that a large majority of our young people, when thinking about it in those terms, would want to do the right thing and come forward and get vaccinated.

"Secondly, we might appeal to the more selfish motivation — the ‘what’s in it for me?’.

"Well, I’ll highlight two things. Firstly, protection of yourself from illness — the uncommon serious illness — and we have all heard of examples of that. Secondly, long Covid is a real thing and the symptoms impact on people’s day-to-day lives for months after the disease.

"Thirdly, you’re a young person. Might you want to go on holiday to another country? Well, increasingly, other countries will require evidence that you have been double vaccinated in the form of Covid certification, so you know, you, like many in society, like to go on holiday to somewhere sunny.

"At the moment, if you want to go off to many parts of Europe and, in due course, further afield, it’s likely in the future that you will need to show that you have been vaccinated and it will certainly be much easier if you can show that.

"So, why wait? Do it now and then you’ll be ready and prepared if you decide to go off on a trip in the future.”

The appeal for more people to come forward for vaccination, now available at walk-in clinics across Northern Ireland, followed warnings over the potential impact of the latest surge of cases on the already under pressure health service.

It emerged on Wednesday that one of England’s largest hospitals had been forced to delay cancer surgeries as a result of the latest Covid surge.

Speaking at the briefing on Wednesday, Dr McBride said people across Northern Ireland could help ensure that red-flag surgery was not switched off.

He explained: "That would be a last resort. We did have to do that during the January wave, when we had very significant numbers. I think very many colleagues — doctors, nurses, health service managers and chief executives — gave interviews at that time explaining those really, really difficult choices.

"That is something we should never be in the position of doing and we don’t need to be in the position of doing if indeed everyone gets their jab and we achieve that 90% uptake by the end of July.”

Jennifer Welsh, chief executive of the Northern Trust, warned cases were rising at an “alarming rate” but stressed every effort was being made to ensure that surgeries were not cancelled.

This will involve high-priority patients having to travel further for red-flag surgery if a particular hospital is struggling with capacity during the fourth wave.

Northern Ireland on Wednesday recorded 570 new cases and a seven-day case rate of 3,054 – up from 1,899.

The number of Covid-19 inpatients is continuing to rise, with 47 people in hospital, of whom four were in intensive care.

Care home outbreaks have doubled to eight in the last week, five of them symptomatic.

Dr McBride also admitted on Wednesday that he was concerned about potential confusion after it was announced that, as of July 19, face covering will no longer be mandatory in England.

He said: "I am concerned there may be an inconsistency in messaging… I think it is important that we guard against sending the public mixed messages about the evidence around matters such as face coverings and the benefits of face coverings.”

He added, however, that a final decision on face coverings was a matter for the Executive.

The Department of Health has published a list of locations and dates for walk-in vaccination clinics in each health trust area.

The information can be found on the department’s website, www.health-ni.gov.uk.

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