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More jabs plea as fourth surge expected to peak in late summer

Stormont adviser says reaching the 90% first dose take-up by end of July is main priority

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Accessible: Belfast Trust nurses Patricia Ferguson and Joanna Hobb at the walk-in vaccination unit outside Belfast City Hall

Accessible: Belfast Trust nurses Patricia Ferguson and Joanna Hobb at the walk-in vaccination unit outside Belfast City Hall

Elaine Lewis gets her jab at City Hall

Elaine Lewis gets her jab at City Hall

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Accessible: Belfast Trust nurses Patricia Ferguson and Joanna Hobb at the walk-in vaccination unit outside Belfast City Hall

Hitting the 90% first dose take-up by the end of July could reduce Covid-19 hospital admissions by half, Stormont’s chief scientific adviser has said.

However, this means more than 136,000 people have to come forward for a Covid-19 vaccine over the next three weeks in order for the ambitious target to be reached.

To date, 1,171,653 people have had one dose of vaccine almost 81% of the eligible population, while 61% of the adult population has received two doses.

As a number of walk-in first jab clinics open today at a variety of locations around Northern Ireland, Professor Ian Young urged as many people as possible to attend for vaccination in a bid to reduce the impact of the fourth Covid-19 surge, expected to peak by late summer.

Coronavirus Data Graphs

“Modelling indicates that if we could get to 90% first dose take-up by the end of July, that could reduce hospital admissions by half when the peak comes,” he said.

“This assumes that everyone getting the first dose goes on to get their second dose, and the fuller protection it provides.

“It would mean hundreds fewer people in hospital, hundreds fewer suffering serious and potentially life-threatening illness. It would also significantly ease potential pressures on our health service.

“It should be stressed again that modelling is not the same as predicting. There are other factors to consider, including the extent to which we all keep adhering to public health advice.

“If more people start acting in a way that helps spread the virus, then the peak will likely be more severe.

“The modelling does provide us with an insight into the tangible benefits of further increasing vaccine take-up rate. There is a race between vaccination and the variant. Every jab counts.”

The plea comes as Northern Ireland recorded the highest number of Covid-19 cases in 24 hours since the beginning of the year.

There were 533 new cases reported yesterday — the most recorded in one day since January 29, when 22 deaths related to Covid-19 were announced. Also at the end of January, there were 712 Covid-19 inpatients, of which 67 were in intensive care, and 127 care home outbreaks.

However, no deaths were reported yesterday and a leading Northern Ireland medic has said he is “cautiously optimistic” about the future trajectory of the pandemic.

Dr Tom Black, chair of the British Medical Association’s Northern Ireland Council, said the low death rate is down to the success of the vaccination programme.

But he warned against complacency, which he said “leads to failure” as a senior Government minister said life will “return to normality as far as possible” after July 19.

Robert Jenrick told the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show that, thanks to the success of the vaccination programme, there is scope to relax measures such as face coverings and social distancing from so-called Freedom Day later this month.

However, Dr Black said he will continue to wear face coverings for at least another eight months.

“My patients are all very smart and they also know that face masks, hand washing and social distancing all work to protect people from this virus,” he added.

Asked about all UK nations removing restrictions on July 19, Mr Jenrick said: “We would like the whole of the union to move as one.

“We are going to work with Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland to be as coordinated as possible. Cases are slightly different in each of the four nations, but certainly in England our view is that things are looking positive for July 19.”

His comments came as Sajid Javid, the newly appointed Health Secretary, said the best way to protect the nation’s health is to lift the remaining Covid-19 curbs.

Writing for the The Mail on Sunday, he said: “The economic arguments for opening up are well known, but for me, the health arguments are equally compelling.

“The steps we took saved countless lives but also led to the build-up of a vast elective backlog — checks, appointments and treatments for all the less urgent, but often just as important, health issues.”


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