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285,000 in Northern Ireland could receive Pfizer Covid vaccine by March if approval granted

Care homes will be prioritised for Covid-19 drug, Health Minister says


A nurse prepares vaccine jabs (Jane Barlow/PA)

A nurse prepares vaccine jabs (Jane Barlow/PA)

A nurse prepares vaccine jabs (Jane Barlow/PA)

Northern Ireland is likely to receive about 570,000 doses of the new coronavirus vaccine by March if it passes the next stage of trials and receives a licence.

As each person needs two jabs three weeks apart, it means 285,000 here could potentially be vaccinated for Covid-19 by the spring.

The Department of Health said, though, the delivery of the vaccine is still dependent on the further success of the trials.

"The vaccine will be split using the Barnett formula, so for the first 20 million doses which are scheduled to be in the UK by the end of March 2021, Northern Ireland would receive roughly 570,000 doses. This is very good news," the department said.

The statement warned that the vaccine still needs to officially pass stage three mass testing trials and then receive official authorisation before it can be used in the UK.

Health Minister Robin Swann told the Assembly on Tuesday that people living in care hones and care home staff would be first in line to receive the vaccine if it becomes available.

"The next section will be the over-85s, and then it will move down to those working in the health and social care system. After that it will be ratified by age group," he added.

Dr Tom Black, chair of the BMA in Northern Ireland, said the most vulnerable should get the vaccine first.

"We've 146 nursing home outbreaks in Northern Ireland today, so nursing homes have got to be a priority," he said.

"Those over-85, those most vulnerable with underlying conditions, and obviously the health care staff, because we've been losing a lot of health care staff to illness and isolation and we'd like to get them it because the intensive care units and the wards are very busy."

Dr Black said the logistics to get 570,000 doses of the vaccine rolled out would take "some amount of work", but could be done "so many at a time - so the first cohort will be the over-85s".

"They've shown we can get a coronavirus vaccination," he added.

"And there's about 200 others in trial behind this one.

"Even if this turns out to be a problem, with side-effects or length of immunity, I think at least we've proved a principle that we can get a vaccine."

General practitioners in England have already been given information on how to prepare for a vaccine rollout and told that Covid vaccine clinics could run from 8am to 8pm seven days a week,

According to the British Medical Association, the correspondence says that the NHS and GP practices must be prepared for "rapid delivery" in the event that a vaccine gets approved for use by regulators.

The intention is for doctors to be prepared to start delivering vaccines when they become available, though it will be optional for practices to sign up to the service.

Logistical difficulties remain about how GPs will be in a position to administer the vaccine, as it needs to be kept at a temperature of -70 to -80 degrees, which would cause issues over storage.

But the BMA said it expects "vaccine availability to be limited to begin with, meaning only small numbers of vaccine may be given in December and most vaccinations taking place in early 2021".

UK Health Secretary Matt Hancock told Westminster yesterday that the NHS will be ready from December to roll out any new coronavirus vaccine if it gets approved.

Some £150m has been set aside for GPs to help with the rollout.

The Royal College of GPs in Northern Ireland is expected to discuss the potential rollout of the vaccine on Wednesday.

Belfast Telegraph