Healthcare news

Interval between Covid-19 vaccine doses being shortened to better protect against Delta variant

The SSE Arena in Belfast is operating as a mass vaccination centre. Picture by Hugh Russell
Maeve Connolly

The gap between doses of the Oxford/AstraZeneca and Pfizer/BioNTech vaccines is to be reduced to a maximum of eight weeks, to better protect against the Delta variant.

Until now the interval between doses was up to 12 weeks but this is being shortened to offer recipients more protection against the Delta - or Indian - variant. 

A cluster of Delta cases have been detected in Kilkeel, Co Down, and mobile testing units have been set up in the town with people over the age of five, from identified areas, invited to attend.

The Delta variant, known as B.1.617.2, is thought to be 40 per cent more transmissible than the Kent - or Alpha - variant, which remains the dominant strain in Northern Ireland.

The change from 12 to eight weeks between doses will affect those who have yet to receive their first vaccine. People who have already had one jab and been given a date for their second are advised that they should keep that appointment and do no need to contact the health service.

Chief Medical Officer Dr Michael McBride said the decision had been made on receipt of updated advice from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI).

“They have recommended reducing the dosing interval to help protect the community from the increasing prevalence of this variant and others that may arise. It’s vital that we move as quickly as possible, with the supplies of vaccine that we have available, to ensure that the maximum number of people receive both doses so that they have fuller and longer lasting protection against the virus."

More than 734,000 people have already received both jabs in Northern Ireland and more than 1.8m doses have been administered to date.

Patricia Donnelly is head of the vaccination programme which is now offering vaccines to those aged 18 and over.

“I would particularly urge those aged over 40, who have not yet come forward, to now book their jab at a community pharmacy. There are more than 350 pharmacies across Northern Ireland offering vaccine appointments. It’s a convenient, straightforward process enabling people to avail of the vaccine at a convenient location in their area.

“After such a long and arduous struggle against the virus, the vaccine brings us hope and, most importantly, protection.”

You can book an appointment at covid-19.hscni.net/get-vaccinated or telephone 0300 200 7813.

Details of participating pharmacies and how to book are online at: covid-19.hscni.net/community-pharmacy-covid-19-vaccination-service

Facilities set up for coronavirus surge testing at Ballymartin GAC in Kilkeel, Co Down, on Monday June 7 after several suspected cases of the Delta variant were identified in the area. Picture by Liam McBurney, Press Association

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