People aged between 65 and 69 across Northern Ireland have been urged to book their Covid-19 vaccination appointments without delay.
Online and telephone booking for this age group were introduced late last month, with a surge of initial bookings made.
Demand has understandably slowed since then, and the Department of Health is advising that some slots are still available for booking over the coming days.
Patricia Donnelly, head of the vaccination programme, said: “We suspect some people may have been put off by the initial surge of demand, and may have concluded that it would be too difficult to get an appointment for their jab anytime soon.
“That is certainly not the case now, and we would encourage everyone eligible to book as soon as possible. This is your chance to get important protection from the virus.”
It is being stressed that the telephone booking system should not be misused and abuse of staff handling the calls or at the vaccination centres will not be tolerated.
“Unfortunately, there have been some instances of people who are not eligible for the jab phoning up to try to get an appointment. Some become abusive when they are informed that they cannot book. This is unacceptable behaviour and it must stop.
“I am concerned that misuse of the telephone booking system is making it harder for people who are eligible to get through – and putting them off making that all important appointment.
“We are also seeing cases of some people double booking – by telephone and online. This is taking appointments from others.
“Please turn up when you have made an appointment. Please don’t phone up if you are not eligible – you won’t get a booking. And please be courteous to staff on the telephone lines.
“I fully understand people are anxious to get the protection that the vaccines offer. Let me assure everyone that we are rolling out the vaccination programme as quickly as we can. While it is not a race, I believe our progress to date would be the envy of many other countries.
“Our rate of progress is limited by the availability of supplies. Further vaccine supplies will come and you will get your jab. Please be patient.”