A major extension of Northern Ireland’s Covid-19 vaccination programme has been announced.
The programme will continue to be based on a twin track approach, with responsibilities divided between GP practices and the seven regional vaccination centres run by health trusts.
The latest extension will see the start of a major vaccination drive for carers, with GPs and the regional vaccination centres both playing their part.
GPs will also be providing the jab to more people with underlying health conditions.
In addition, anyone over 70 who has not yet had their first dose from their GP will have the option to book a vaccination appointment at one of the seven regional centres.
These plans will help maintain momentum in the vaccination programme, bringing protection to more and more people in the coming weeks.
* GPs will be making vaccination available to more medically vulnerable people and their carers. This will include people aged 18 plus who have underlying medical conditions but who did not receive a shielding letter. This extended target group is expected to largely mirror those who receive the winter flu vaccine each year because of their medical conditions. There is no need to contact your GP as they will invite people to receive the vaccine based on their vaccine supply. This phase of the programme will take several weeks to complete, so please be patient. GPs will also remain focussed on completing vaccinations for the 70 plus age group.
* In parallel, carers aged 60 to 64 will also have the option of booking a vaccination at one of the seven regional centres. Booking will be available if you were born between 01/04/56 and 31/03/61 and are in receipt of Carer’s Allowance or Carer’s Credit; are a registered care home Care Partner; are the main carer of an elderly or disabled person whose welfare may be at risk if you as carer fall ill. People are asked to respect these criteria when booking. Carers in lower age groups can be assured that we will expand the age eligibility as soon as possible in the coming days and weeks.
* The regional vaccination centres will also continue to take vaccination bookings for those aged 65 to 69 and for those who have received a shielding letter because they are Clinically Extremely Vulnerable (CEV) to the virus.
* In addition, anyone aged 70 plus who has not yet had their vaccination from their GP now has the option of booking at a regional centre.
In summary, the twin track approach means:
* GP vaccinations will now cover – 70 plus age group; people aged 18 and over who may be vulnerable to the virus and their carers; working along with district nurses to prioritise vaccination for anyone aged 65 years and over who is confined to their homes due to ill health or disability.
* Regional vaccination centres will meanwhile provide booked vaccinations for: carers aged 60-64; anyone aged 65 to 69; anyone aged 70 plus who wants to receive their vaccination in a regional centre; anyone who has received a “shielding” letter because they are Clinically Extremely Vulnerable.
To make a vaccination centre appointment by phone, ring 0300 200 7813. The phone line is open Monday to Friday from 8.30am to 5.30pm.
To make an appointment online, go to https://covid-19.hscni.net/get-vaccinated
Anyone attending a vaccination centre can be assured that social distancing and other Covid safety rules are strictly applied.
People must get their first and second doses from the same provider – they must not try to “mix and match” between GPs and vaccination centres.
Health Minister Robin Swann said: “I would really encourage anyone who is eligible for vaccination at a regional centre to book as soon as possible.
“The vaccination programme is making good progress and I am very pleased that we are able to announce these further extensions today.
“It had been planned to begin vaccinating carers in early March. I am delighted that we are now able to bring this forward, on a staggered basis.
“As ever, the rate of our progress through the eligible groups will depend on available supplies of vaccines.”