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Medical students may be used to help NI booster drive

Health Minister Robin Swann outlined plans to boost the number of vaccinators delivering vaccine shots in the region.





Medical students may be deployed as vaccinators in Northern Ireland amid efforts to ramp up the delivery of boosters, the Health Minister has said.

Robin Swann said he was also considering making another request to the Ministry of Defence for army medical and logistical support to help in the bid to administer as many doses as possible ahead of the anticipated rapid spread of Omicron.

Mr Swann told the Assembly that 513 additional vaccinators had been sourced through a recent health service workforce appeal.

His comments come as long queues have been reported at vaccination facilities across the region.

On Sunday, Mr Swann announced a rapid scaling up of the programme, opening it to people aged over 30.


Health Minister Robin Swann (Liam McBurney/PA)

Health Minister Robin Swann (Liam McBurney/PA)


Health Minister Robin Swann (Liam McBurney/PA)

The minister urged people to check updates from health trusts on social media to determine the best time to attend the various walk-in facilities.

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“We’re already seeing sites where unfortunately we’re seeing more people turn up than we actually have capacity,” he said.

Mr Swann said he was aware that some GP practices were operating drive through clinics where people were getting jabbed through their open car window while others were setting up temporary facilities in car parks.

The told Assembly question time that the focus was to “make sure we can get as many people receiving the booster dose as soon as it’s practically possible.”

Sinn Fein MLA Colm Gildernew asked if there were plans to train staff from outside the core health and social care workforce to provide help with the vaccination programme.

Mr Swann noted that mass vaccine centres that operated earlier in the pandemic employed vets and dentists as vaccinators.

He added: “We’re also currently exploring the utilisation of medical students who can come forward and actually support our vaccination teams as well.

“And at this point in time we’re also considering drafting a further Maca (Military Aid to Civilian Authorities) so that we can seek support from the Ministry of Defence in regards to bringing in not just further vaccinators but also logistical support, if necessary, as well.”

The MoD has responded to several Maca requests from Mr Swann at various points during the pandemic, deploying temporary military support to help the fight against Covid-19.

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