Northern Ireland

Health Minister Robin Swann ‘blindsided’ by Republic's AstraZeneca vaccine move

Health Minister Robin Swann. Picture from Pacemaker
Health Minister Robin Swann. Picture from Pacemaker

Health Minister Robin Swann has expressed disappointment that he only learned of the move to suspend AstraZeneca vaccines in the Republic of Ireland through the media.

Robin Swann has asked for a review of a memorandum of understanding between health authorities on both sides of the border that was supposed to enhance information-sharing on Covid-19 issues.

Mr Swann said the lack of advance notice on the decision to temporarily pause the rollout of the jab in the Republic came amid ongoing difficulties securing passenger locator data from the authorities in Dublin.

The minister said he had given Irish Health Minister Stephen Donnelly advance notice of his intention to issue an announcement later yesterday that the rollout of AstraZeneca would continue in Northern Ireland.

Addressing the Stormont Assembly, Mr Swann said: “While not wanting to make a political issue out of this, the first I became aware yesterday was through the media.

“So I have asked my chief medical officer to review the terms of the memorandum of understanding because I think it was disappointing that that’s how we found out.”

He added: “The MoU is actually signed by both chief medical officers from both jurisdictions in regards to the sharing of information, best practice and also communications, in regards to our test, trace and protect systems, so there is that mutual sharing of information.

“Most of it is productive, most of it is positive.

“But in regards to the latest announcement I think it showed a weakness, and I’ve asked the chief medical officer just to make sure that we look to the future to make sure that these sorts of announcements are not blindsided on either jurisdiction.”

Mr Swann said the “challenge” of accessing information on passengers arriving in the Irish Republic en route to the UK was an issue for all the UK regions, not just Northern Ireland.