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NI health trusts to invite clinically extremely vulnerable to Covid vaccine regional centres


Thousands have received the coronavirus vaccine.

Thousands have received the coronavirus vaccine.

PA Wire/PA Images

Thousands have received the coronavirus vaccine.

Northern Ireland health trusts are to invite those classed as clinically extremely vulnerable into their regional centres for the coronavirus vaccine.

It comes as demand at the centres has dropped after healthcare workers received their first dose, the BBC reports.

Around 100,000 people were told to shield during the first wave of the virus. Shielding was paused in July last year, however, the advice was updated in December and the category widened to include more people. Those people now classed as clinically extremely vulnerable have been advised not to attend a workplace.

In terms of vaccinations, more than 155,000 people have had the first dose with another 22,000 having received the second in NI.

Some healthcare staff are to be stood down as vaccinators to allow them to return to their main job while others are to take up the service as part of their core responsibilities. However, there may be a need to recall staff at short notice.

The Department of Health said staff - such as school nurses - would be working as vaccinators as their service had been stopped. Others would return to hospitals and help ease pressure on services.

It said invitations will be sent out to people for vaccines. It has also urged healthcare staff to take up their offer of a jab.

Northern Ireland hospitals have faced intense pressure dealing with the third wave of the virus. Last week was expected to be the peak for hospitals. At one stage last week four hospitals were operating over capacity.

While numbers remain high, there was a decrease in the number of people in hospital and in intensive care

Current 746 beds are occupied with Covid patients with 74 people in ICU. Hospital occupancy is at 88%.

At Belfast's Nightingale hospital, extra beds have been opened to cope with large numbers of extreme sick patients.

Melanie McClements director of acute services at the Southern Health Trust said the weekend had been very busy for their staff.

"We have been running on empty for the last few weeks as we had such a high percentage of Covid patients in the southern area," she told BBC Good Morning Ulster.

"Thankfully that is starting to go in the right direction.... we are starting to feel the tail in our intensive care units."

She praised staff for their hard work in dealing with the intense workload outlining how the current wave was much more demanding than anything previous. She said they were beginning to feel a plateau in the amount of patients needing respiratory support. However they were anticipating increased numbers in intensive care as it was around two weeks of a lag behind.

She said there had been very busy days in vaccination centres and the focus was moving to those clinically extremely vulnerable patients.

She said freeing staff up from vaccination duties allowed them to deal with surge three pressures in hospitals on the front line. Mrs McClements said staff were keen to get the jab.

"It does not mean we have taken focus off our vaccination, it is just dealing with the demand as it comes in. And we are ready at any stage to deal with demand. We flex every day," she added.

Belfast Telegraph