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Vaccination plea as Northern Ireland experiences ‘fourth wave’

Chief medical officer Sir Michael McBride said ‘It’s really, really important that as many of us get vaccinated’.

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Northern Ireland chief medical officer Sir Michael McBride (Liam McBurney/PA)

Northern Ireland chief medical officer Sir Michael McBride (Liam McBurney/PA)

Northern Ireland chief medical officer Sir Michael McBride (Liam McBurney/PA)

The importance of vaccination has been emphasised as Northern Ireland’s top medic confirmed the country has entered a fourth wave of the coronavirus pandemic.

Another 420 confirmed cases of the virus were notified by the Department of Health on Monday.

Chief medical officer Sir Michael McBride said case numbers will increase rapidly as restrictions on movement are eased and the Delta variant is now dominant.

But he said the infection rate can be slowed by following public health advice and getting vaccinated.

Around 80% of the adult population in Northern Ireland, eligible for a Covid-19 vaccination, has received one dose while more than 60% has received two.

“We are in the fourth wave of this virus, there is no doubt about that, numbers will increase rapidly and we can do things to slow that, we can continue to follow the public health advice but most importantly now is the time to get the vaccine,” Sir Michael said.

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He added on the BBC’s The Nolan Show: “Numbers will peak in August/early September and then after a delay of eight to 10 days we will see that begin to translate into hospital admissions.

“If we can get our vaccination rate up to 90%, we can reduce the number of people in hospital at any one time from 400 to approximately 200.”

On Monday morning there were 32 Covid-positive patients in hospital, of whom four were in intensive care.

Sir Michael said the health service is on track to have delivered 85% of first doses of the jab by the end of July.

He said so far around 56% of 18 to 29-year-olds have been vaccinated so far, and urged those in that age bracket to come forward.

It's really, really important that as many of us get vaccinated because that builds a wall around the people who are vulnerableSir Michael McBride

“The vaccine is doing a lot of the heavy lifting, it is weakening the link between infections and the number of people being admitted to hospital, it hasn’t broken that link completely,” he said.

“It’s really, really important that as many of us get vaccinated because that builds a wall around the people who are vulnerable… and who wouldn’t want to reduce by 50% the number of people towards the end of the summer who are in our hospitals.”

Earlier, chief scientific adviser Ian Young also encouraged take-up of the vaccine.

“It is likely to peak some time in August, possibly early September, based on our modelling and the question is to what extent that will lead through to hospital admissions,” he told BBC Radio Ulster.

“Because of the success of the vaccine programme, the number of admissions will be less compared with previous waves but it can still be very substantial and at the moment we’re anticipating possibly up to around 400 patients in hospital with Covid towards the end of the summer.

“That’s why we need to push vaccination now, we can reduce that number substantially, probably by around half, if we can get up to 90% of the adult population vaccinated.”

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Northern Ireland chief medical officer Michael McBride receives his first dose of the coronavirus vaccine (Liam McBurney/PA)

Northern Ireland chief medical officer Michael McBride receives his first dose of the coronavirus vaccine (Liam McBurney/PA)

PA

Northern Ireland chief medical officer Michael McBride receives his first dose of the coronavirus vaccine (Liam McBurney/PA)

Mobile vaccination clinics are being rolled out across Northern Ireland to make the jab more accessible and mass vaccination centres are offering walk-in appointments.

Health Minister Robin Swann has described the recent increase in the number of cases of the virus as a “serious concern”.

He said the latest cases are mostly within the younger age groups, and urged those to come forward to be vaccinated.

Meanwhile, DUP MP Sammy Wilson has called for Northern Ireland to follow the rest of the UK ahead of the anticipated lifting of restrictions on movement in England later this month.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson is to tell people that it will be left to their judgment how to reduce the risk posed by the virus, rather than expecting the Government to set out restrictions in law.

The approach is expected to mean that from “freedom day” in a fortnight’s time, face masks will no longer be required in many settings and social distancing restrictions will be removed in pubs and restaurants

Sir Michael said the wearing of face coverings has reduced transmission of the virus, and will continue to do so.

“The more of us who continue to wear face coverings, the greater that impact will have,” he said.

“Social distancing has undoubtedly prevented chains of transmission and has reduced infection, hand washing, good ventilation, all of those, the evidence is strong and they still work.

“Increasingly as we get more people vaccinated and more people protected then there is the opportunity to look at those interventions, the necessity for them, but ultimately those will be policy decisions for ministers.”


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