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Rollout of Covid vaccine could be extended to over-40s within days, says Swann

Robin Swann made the comment on a visit to a community pharmacy which has started delivering the jab.


Health Minister Robin Swann (Kelvin Boyes/Press Eye/PA)

Health Minister Robin Swann (Kelvin Boyes/Press Eye/PA)

Health Minister Robin Swann (Kelvin Boyes/Press Eye/PA)

The rollout of the coronavirus vaccine programme could be extended to those aged over 40 in Northern Ireland within days, Robin Swann has indicated.

The Stormont Health Minister said he hopes the programme will move to the next age cohort this week, dependent on jab supplies.

Currently all those aged 50 and over, as well as a number of people with health conditions, are among those who can book a vaccination.

“We’ll look at our management systems to see uptake of the current age cohorts as well before we make that decision, but I would hope to be making that announcement within the next week,” Mr Swann said.

Mr Swann made the comments as he welcomed the vaccine rollout to community pharmacies on the same day as the opening of a mass vaccination centre at the SSE Arena in Belfast.

Around 65% of pharmacies – almost 350 – can now provide the service, which at present applies to those aged 50 years and over.

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Several regional centres will also continue to administer vaccines, as will GP surgeries.

Mr Swann said: “Pharmacists have a wealth of expertise, skills and experience which makes them very well placed for delivering the Covid-19 vaccine.

“The addition of this new service will help speed up the rollout of the existing programme by increasing capacity and local accessibility to vaccines for the general population, particularly for those who may find it more difficult to travel to one of the mass vaccination centres.”

The Department of Health’s chief pharmaceutical officer Cathy Harrison was among those who availed of the service at Timoney Pharmacy in Lambeg on Monday.

It is over very quickly and it's really reassuring to have got it doneBernie Duffy

She said it is important to offer people choice on where they can get their jabs.

“This really is about choice, the introduction of the pharmacy service is really about increasing flexibility,” she said.

“What we want to do is, as soon as we get the vaccine into Northern Ireland, we want to get it used and administered as quickly as possible, and having 343 pharmacies is really going to help us on top of the general practitioners and the SSE Arena.

“It really is all about local for some people and that will make a big difference I believe to some people.”

Bernie Duffy, who previously had Covid-19 in December, was also among those vaccinated at the pharmacy on Monday.

“It was absolutely fine, very, very easy to get and no pain at all. It is over very quickly and it’s really reassuring to have got it done,” she said.

“I previously had Covid myself in early December and luckily it was a very mild dose but I know some people who have had severe doses and I would really like to be protected for the future, and not to have to face that again.”

Gerard Greene, chief executive of Community Pharmacy NI, welcomed the introduction of the service, but urged patience from the public in the rollout.

“We do ask the public for patience over the coming weeks as this new service gets up and running,” he said.

“Pharmacists will be vaccinating the public along with their usual work in ensuring the safe supply of medicines and provision of medical advice.

“As clinically trained vaccinators, community pharmacists are looking forward to begin vaccinating their communities and contribute even further to the wider Covid-19 response.”

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