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Great jab: last vaccine is delivered at SSE Arena as shows hits the road

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Danielle McIlroy

Danielle McIlroy

PA

Drive: Vaccination staff take selfies outside SSE Arena at the end of the Big Jab Weekend. Credit: Philip Magowan/Press Eye

Drive: Vaccination staff take selfies outside SSE Arena at the end of the Big Jab Weekend. Credit: Philip Magowan/Press Eye

Philip Magowan/Press Eye

17-year-old Danielle McIlroy who received the last vaccination of the day, speaks to Health Minister Robin Swann. Credit: Niall Carson/PA

17-year-old Danielle McIlroy who received the last vaccination of the day, speaks to Health Minister Robin Swann. Credit: Niall Carson/PA

PA

A piper plays as staff leave. Credit: Niall Carson/PA

A piper plays as staff leave. Credit: Niall Carson/PA

PA

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Danielle McIlroy

The final vaccination jab to be delivered at the SSE mass vaccination facility in Belfast pricked the arm of schoolgirl Danielle McElroy.

As a scrum of photographers and reporters crowded around (socially distanced of course) the small vaccination booth in the cavernous arena, the 17-year-old Bangor Academy pupil faced bravely into her 15 minutes of fame, as she received her vaccine under the care of nurse vaccinators Elaine Toner and Favour Nich.

"I just wanted to play my part in helping everyone get through this," Danielle said as the flashes popped and shutters clicked.

“It's really affected my school work, and everyone’s lifestyle.

"I just wanted to get back to normality — and I think this is doing that — and it keeps everybody safe and well.

“It's exciting to get it, and I’m very happy I got it.”

Asked how it felt to get the jab everyone has been talking about, Danielle added: “It was actually fine!

"I'm a bit squeamish with needles, so I’m really glad it was actually fine,” she giggled.

Danielle’s jab was the last milestone in the SSE Arena’s role in Northern Ireland's mass vaccination programme.

All weekend, queues had formed outside the mothballed sports and concert venue as people travelled from all over the region to take up the offer of a Covid-19 vaccination.

Michael Green from Annacloy had travelled to Belfast from Newcastle to get his second injection of the vaccine.

There had already been a death in his family due to the virus — but it had happened before the life-saving jab had become available.

"But you just have to get up and get on with it, don’t you?” Michael said. Inside the arena, nurse vaccinators Aquilla Freeman and Brenda Dynes said they were delighted to have been part of the mass vaccination drive.

“We started in the Ulster Hospital before Christmas,” said Aquilla. “So we’ve both been at this since December.

"It’s been a long old road — but it’s not finished yet.”

Now that the vaccinations in the main SSE site are ended, they will be delivering jabs at the arena’s car park.

They will also be out and about taking part in mobile units which tour town and villages in Northern Ireland, offering walk-in vaccinations, explained Brenda.

Asked how many people they had vaccinated, Brenda said: “Thousands.

“We’ve been doing over a hundred in a day,” she added, a touch of pride in her voice.

"In a 12 hour shift we’d have done a hundred, easily, ourselves — and we’ve been doing it since last December.”

Brenda said the thing that had impressed her most about the vaccination drive was the way it had been managed

As the vaccinations came to a close last night, four Irish dancers stepped forward into the limelight in front of the vaccination booths to perform a spirited Riverdance-style routine that brought a smile to the tired faces of the hardworking staff.

And hardly had the sound of the fiddles and dancing shoes died away, than out from the shadows marched a Scots piper, kilted and wearing a black bearskin.

To loud cheers, he skirled into a jaunty rendition of Belle of Belfast City’ and led the medical and support staff out through the darkened corridor from the main hall into the evening sunshine in the car park.


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