Health bosses in Northern Ireland have no plans to delay the administration of the Covid-19 vaccine to people who have already had the virus, it can be revealed.
hey were speaking after the chair of the National Immunisation Advisory Committee in the Republic said vaccination of people who have already had Covid-19 may be delayed there.
NIAC chair Professor Karina Butler said: "There is a suggestion coming out that if you have had Covid, you might be fairly well protected for six months and in that case, we might find the advice will change and it will say, 'If you have had Covid, wait the six months and then get it [the vaccine]."
Prof Butler said it may be a way of increasing the number of people immune to the virus by only vaccinating those who need the jab.
However, the Department of Health here last night said: "The Covid-19 vaccination programme is being implemented in line with the recommendations from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI).
"JCVI constantly review all the available medical and scientific evidence and provide updated advice as necessary. We are not aware of any plans to change the current advice in relation to the Covid-19 vaccination programme.
"At present vaccination is recommended for the vast majority of individuals, regardless of whether or not they previously had Covid-19." It comes as a number of GP surgeries claimed they are still in the dark over the roll-out of the Covid-19 vaccine to their patients.
Belfast solicitor Claire McKeegan, from Phoenix Law, said she has been instructed by a GP practice which has more than 7,000 patients but has so far only received 100 doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine. She said her client has asked health bosses when further doses of the vaccine will be delivered but no information has been provided.
However, the Department of Health last night released its ambitious schedule for the largest mass vaccination programme ever undertaken by the NHS. According to the document, health bosses in Northern Ireland expect phase one of the programme, which started in December, to be completed by the end of this month.
Phase one includes 12,000 care home residents and 20,000 care home staff who are receiving two doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine. It also includes 70,000 health and social care staff, who are also getting the Pfizer-BioNTech jab, and 72,000 people aged 80 and over, who are to be vaccinated with Oxford/AstraZeneca jab by GPs and district nurses.
Phase two of the programme is due to begin next month in five-year tranches, beginning with patients aged 75 and over, before moving on to those people who are 70 and over, then the over-65s - a total of more than 230,000 people.
The programme will then move on to the clinically vulnerable under 65 years and the 95,000 people who have been shielding, and 130,000 people considered moderately vulnerable.
The third phase is due to begin in the spring and will include patients in tranches from 60 to 50-year-olds who have not already been vaccinated. An exact start date has not been provided as it is dependent on vaccine availability.