Concerns have been expressed at the vaccine uptake rate among healthcare staff.
Only three out of four Belfast Trust staff had received two jabs at trust vaccine centres by November 10.
Not all staff vaccines are recorded, as some may have gone to a GP or community pharmacy — data which is not collected.
In the Belfast Trust, 16,012 (73%) out of 21,846 staff had received two doses.
Just 64% of nurses and midwives had two doses at a vaccination centre by this date.
The rate for social services staff was 68%, with 83% for admin and clerical staff, and 91% for medical and dental staff.
“I would like to see as many as possible, if not all, availing of the vaccine. Obviously not everyone can. I know there are some mitigating factors but I would like to see it higher,” he said.
Dr Tom Black, chair of the BMA (NI), said: “The obvious thing to say is that you would want all healthcare workers to be double-jabbed and had the booster.
“We certainly don’t want staff coming in to look after patients if they aren’t vaccinated, because with Omicron it would be very concerning.”
In the Southern Trust, an average of 75% of staff were vaccinated by November. Its hospital sites showed: St Luke’s (70%); South Tyrone (75%); Lurgan Hospital (77%); Daisy Hill (79%) and Craigavon Area (79%).
The Northern Trust did not provide a percentage breakdown by hospital or job type. It said, as of last week, 9,898 (81.3%) were vaccinated out of 12,167 staff.
The South Eastern Trust had not provided a response at the time of going to press.
It comes as queues have formed at vaccination centres to get booster jabs following the emergence of the more transmissible Omicron variant.
Figures from June indicated as few as 54% of frontline staff in the Western Trust had received two doses.
Again, numbers related to those who had used mass vaccinations centres. Health and social care staff were in ‘priority group 2’ with first doses offered in December 2020. At the time there was a 10-week gap to second doses.
The Department of Health acknowledged that in the early stages of the vaccination programme staff were encouraged to take up the offer of jabs as early as possible via the centres, but for a variety of reasons some chose to go to a GP or pharmacy.
“This means the figures held by trusts for take-up by staff are incomplete and out of date,” it added.
Despite being asked for statistics at the start of November, the Western Trust only provided data up to June 2021.
Out of 8,390 frontline staff, 6,100 (72%) received a first dose while 4,492 (54%) received two doses. Overall, the figures are 74% and 55% respectively.
The response shows that 63% of medical and dental, and nursing and midwifery staff, had received two vaccine doses by June. First doses for those staff groupings were higher at 69% and 71% respectively.
Social services staff were on 60% for two doses and 72% for one dose. In terms of admin and clerical staff, they were on 68% for two doses and 76% for one dose.
The Western Trust said: “The statistics for vaccination uptake by staff are not up-to-date and are as recorded at June 2021. As such, the statistics are not an accurate representation of the take-up of vaccinations by staff and do not include some cohorts of temporary staff or those who received their vaccinations elsewhere.”
It said the figures would be “significantly higher” when numbers from GPs and community pharmacies were added.
The Big Jab weekend in August and other drives provided people of all ages with another opportunity to get vaccinated.
Trusts also pointed out they had “consistently and regularly encouraged all staff to take up the offer of the Covid-19 vaccine”, adding it was not a mandatory requirement.
The Belfast Telegraph previously uncovered figures showing at least 206 patient deaths were linked to definite or probable Covid healthcare-associated infections (HCAI). Those are patients who have caught the virus in a hospital setting.
The Department of Health was asked that, given the uptake figure for the jabs among staff, evidence that people have died due to HCAIs, and its consistent advice for people to get the vaccine, should vaccinations now be made mandatory for frontline staff.
It said it continued to work with the trusts to maximise uptake of the Covid-19 vaccine among staff and encouraged all to get vaccinated without delay.
It added: “We do not want to take a position that might further destabilise our vulnerable staffing position and therefore have currently no plans for a mandatory vaccination programme at this time.”
This is consistent with the approach in Scotland, Wales and the Republic.
Stormont Health Minister Robin Swann has announced plans for a public consultation on mandatory Covid-19 and flu vaccinations for new heath and social care recruits.