ANYONE aged 50 or over across Northern Ireland can now book their COVID-19 vaccination appointment, Health Minister Robin Swann has announced.
The programme is being extended from today to 50 to 59-year-olds, with booking slots available at the seven regional vaccination centres.
GPs are also now covering the 50 plus age range. This means people have the choice of being contacted by their GPs and receiving a jab, or booking themselves in at one of the seven centres, if they haven’t already been invited to receive the vaccine by their GP.
If you have already been invited by your GP and confirmed, please do keep this appointment.
People wanting to book a vaccination centre appointment are asked to do so online if it all possible:
If online booking is not possible, then the telephone booking number is 0300 200 7813.
The booking line is open 8am to 8pm, Monday to Friday.
Vaccination centres are being migrated to AstraZeneca vaccine deployment for first doses, to maximise use of available COVID-19 vaccine supplies in NI.
That means that increasingly, the same vaccine will be provided by GPs and the centres.
Anyone who received the Pfizer vaccine as a first dose will still receive the Pfizer vaccine for their second dose.
The Health Minister stated: “Vaccination is our bridge to better, safer and more normal times for everyone.
“Already a large and growing proportion of our adult population has received a first jab. Vaccination is providing vital protection from COVID-19.”
Chief Medical Officer Dr Michael McBride stated: “We need to vaccinate those most at risk and those around them.
"The more of us who are vaccinated, the more we are all protected. Vaccination alone will not provide 100 per cent protection but it will change the balance in our favour against this virus.
"When your turn comes, don’t delay, get the jab. Protect yourself and others.”
Paying tribute to all those involved in the programme, Mr Swann added: “Our health service has had the most challenging year in its history.
"Yet here it is delivering an unprecedented vaccination programme efficiently and effectively, at pace, on top of all its other work. It is truly remarkable.
“The roll-out will continue to be prioritised based on age, in line with Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation guidance aimed at protecting those in our community who are most vulnerable to the virus.”
Vaccines are being dispensed in parallel by GP practices and vaccination centres. Plans are also being finalised for community pharmacies to join the programme in the coming weeks.
In addition, an additional regional mass vaccination centre will open at the end of this month at the SSE Arena.
The vaccination centres are now offering bookings to: everyone aged 50 plus; anyone who received a shielding letter because they are Clinically Extremely Vulnerable (CEV); and anyone who is a main carer of an elderly or disabled person.
Carers who have not already booked a vaccination appointment can email their Health Trust carer co-ordinators and they will make the necessary arrangements.
GPs are providing vaccines to: everyone aged 50 plus; anyone who received a shielding letter because they are Clinically Extremely Vulnerable (CEV); carers; patients aged 18 and over who have underlying medical conditions.
The latter Clinically Vulnerable (CV) group is expected to largely mirror those who receive the winter flu vaccine each year because of their medical conditions.
CEV and CV individuals aged 16 and 17 years of age cannot receive the vaccine being used in GP practices.
These individuals will receive a letter from their GP and are able to book a vaccination slot at one of the vaccination centres.
There is no need to contact your GP regarding vaccination – they will contact you as they work through their lists.
Anyone booking at one of the seven centres is asked to play their part in ensuring the smooth operation of the system.
They can do this by:
* Being patient when booking. The expansion announced today is expected to see a surge of demand for slots in March and April.
* Use the online booking portal if possible, to reduce pressure on the telephone line.
* Don’t book multiple appointments. You only need to book once.
Don’t be a 'no show'. If you have to cancel your appointment – let us know. If you book and then simply don’t turn up, you are depriving someone else of an appointment.