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Swann praises ‘herculean efforts’ amid plans to roll-out Covid booster jab to younger age groups


Robin Swann

Robin Swann

Robin Swann

Health Minister Robin Swann has praised the “Herculean efforts” being made to further ramp up the delivery of Covid-19 vaccine boosters.

He also said that the booster programme will be expanded to include those who fall into younger age brackets in the coming days.

Anyone aged 30 and over who is at least three months from their second dose is now eligible to attend a Trust walk-in vaccination hub.

Large numbers of people eager to get their Covid-19 booster jabs have spent hours queuing outside vaccination centres on Monday.

BBC Evening Extra reported that some people were standing in a queue outside Ulster Hospital for two and a half hours.

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Allison Donnelly, lead nurse at the Royal Victoria Hospital vaccination centre told the programme that it was a similar picture there with queues moving quickly.

They doubled capacity at the centre in order to alleviate pressure and she said it is “fantastic” to see the number of people turning out.

Online bookings for hub booster appointments will also be available for this age group later this week. Boosters for this age group are also available from participating community pharmacies.

“I intend to announce plans in the next few days in regards to booster availability for younger age groups,” Minister Swann said.

“I need to emphasise the scale of the booster programme challenge and the Herculean efforts being made to get jabs to as many people as possible in the coming weeks.

“Our health system is under immense and relentless pressure and has already been stretching itself in recent weeks to accelerate the booster programme. What is being asked of it now in terms of booster delivery is beyond anything asked of our health service in its entire history.

"That reflects the emergency situation we are facing with the expected surge in COVID-19 cases in January as a result of the Omicron variant.

“Faced with this emergency, the booster programme’s timetable has now been decisively shortened and intensive work will be required to further ramp up capacity. I am very pleased to see people coming forward in large numbers for their boosters. I would appeal for patience in the event of any queues. Please be assured that vaccinator teams are working flat out and initiatives are being finalised to help speed up provision.

“Unfortunately, there have been some reports about abusive behaviour towards staff at vaccination centres. This is totally unacceptable and must stop.”

Immediate initiatives to improve capacity include the recruitment of additional vaccinators, extended opening times for Trust hubs, and a programme of walk-in clinics to complement the hubs.

Potential additional locations for Trust hubs are also being identified. The deferral of some planned routine health service activity is also under consideration in order to free up further capacity.

Discussions are also ongoing with GPs and community pharmacists on a co-ordinated drive to extend the reach of the booster programme to everyone aged 18 and over.

For latest details of current Trust vaccination hubs in your area, check Trust websites.

A list of pharmacies offering the booster jab is available on the Health and Social Care Board website: http://www.hscboard.hscni.net/booster-covid19-vaccination/

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