Q&A: Getting jabbed after NI vaccination centres close for first jabs

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Person being vaccinatedImage source, Pacemaker
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Walk-in centres for Covid-19 vaccinations have been operating since late June

Saturday is the last day to get your first dose of a Covid jab at Northern Ireland's mass vaccination centres.

The centres at the SSE Arena in Belfast and other venues across Northern Ireland have formed the backbone of the campaign against Covid-19.

The vaccination programme will continue, but there will be important changes.

Why are the mass vaccination centres being closed for first doses?

Health Minister Robin Swann has said the closure of the centres for first jabs would allow staff to be redeployed back into the health service.

If you are due to get your second jab at one of the vaccination centres, you will still be able to do so as long as you received your first dose on, or before, Saturday.

The centres, which have been offering walk-in jabs as well as appointments include the SSE Arena in Belfast, Foyle Arena in Londonderry; Omagh Leisure Centre; Lakeland Forum, Fermanagh; South Lake Leisure Centre, Craigavon; Seven Towers Leisure Centre, Ballymena and the Royal Victoria Hospital in Belfast.

"The SSE Arena and the leisure centres that we've been using can't be commandeered for vaccination use forever," Mr Swann added.

The minister said that GPs had been under intense pressure given the current levels of demand for care and that their role will now include "preparing for the vaccine booster dose and the flu vaccine programme after the summer".

Image source, Pacemaker
Image caption,
The SSE Arena in Belfast has been used as a mass vaccination centre during the pandemic

There will still be options available for people who change their minds and decide that they do wish to be vaccinated.

Chief medical officer Sir Michael McBride said now was the time to get the vaccine.

"We will be closing our vaccine centres for first doses. You can still get a vaccine, but it will be more difficult," Sir Michael said.

Patricia Donnelly, head of Northern Ireland's vaccination programme, said uptake in the older age groups had been "exceptional".

However, as of 30 July, 59% of under 30s had come forward.

"We do not want this age group to miss out. Time is running out in vaccination centres for first doses so if you have not already come forward, then please do so."

Can I still get my jab at a walk-in vaccination clinic?

A series of mobile walk-in clinics where you don't have to book ahead for your vaccination opened on 27 June.

The walk-in clinics will continue to operate after the closure of the mass vaccination centres for first doses on Saturday.

If you're intending to get yourself vaccinated at a mobile clinic, you should bring photo ID.

Image source, Pacemaker
Image caption,
Closing vaccination centres for first jabs will allow staff to be redeployed into the health service, the health minister says

Is there anywhere else I can get vaccinated?

You can still get a jab from your local pharmacist.

The vaccination programme programme has delivered more than 115,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine from almost 350 community pharmacies across Northern Ireland.

A limited number of community pharmacies will also begin delivering the Moderna vaccine.

Cathy Harrison, chief pharmaceutical officer, said: "The deployment of the Moderna vaccine from an increasing number of community pharmacies over the coming weeks will play a vital part in our continued fight back against the virus."

Initially there will be just 16 pharmacies offering this vaccine but this number will increase.

How many people have currently been vaccinated?

In Northern Ireland as of 30 July, a total of 2,248,598 doses of the vaccine have been given; 1, 212,236 of those are first doses, and 1,036,362 are second doses.

Department of Health figures show:

  • In the 18-29 age group, 59.98% have had a vaccine dose
  • in the 30-39 age group 70.62% have had a vaccine,
  • in the 40-49 age group 83.73% have had a jab
  • In the 50-59 age group 91.56% have had a dose
  • Uptake in all those in the over 60s, over 70s and over 80s age groups is said to be 100%.
Image source, Liam McBurney
Image caption,
Young people in particular are being advised to get jabbed

Which groups are being targeted to encourage them to get vaccinated?

Young people aged 18 and over are being particularly encouraged to get themselves vaccinated.

The health minister recently appealed to the friends and parents of young people aged 18 and over to encourage them to get vaccinated.

Image source, PAcemaker
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Chief medical officer Sir Michael McBride says now is the time to get vaccinated

Sir Michael McBride, the chief medical officer, said people under 40 can now have a "major say on the future path" of the Covid pandemic.

"If they get the jab they will save lives, protect our health service and reclaim normality, while protecting themselves and others.

Sir Michael has also appealed for pregnant women to get the Covid vaccine.