Covid-19 vaccination booster programme to begin this month
A Covid booster vaccination programme will commence this month, Health Minister Robin Swann has confirmed.
Mr Swann's announcement follows advice from the UK's Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) recommending booster jabs.
The jabs will be offered to those in phase one of the original vaccination rollout.
That includes all adults over 50; frontline health care workers; care home residents; people aged 16-49 with underlying health conditions; and adult household contacts of people who are immunosuppressed.
The health minister said that, initially, health trust mobile teams will be visiting residential care homes to vaccinate residents and staff and trusts will also begin to vaccinate frontline health and social care staff.
“By early October we expect to see GPs starting to invite their oldest patients in to receive their booster dose as they pass the six month mark from receiving their second dose, while community pharmacies will offer vaccination to non-trust employed frontline staff such as Domiciliary Care workers etc," he added.
Mr Swann said the JCVI has advised a preference for the Pfizer vaccine for the booster programme, regardless of which drug they received for their primary doses. A half dose of the Moderna vaccine may also be offered and in cases where Pfizer and Moderna mRNA jabs cannot be given, for example as a result of an allergy, AstraZeneca may be considered for those who received it previously.
The minister said the north's vacccination programme "has been successful in protecting people from serious illness and has ultimately saved many, many lives.
"Introducing a booster programme will help to prolong protection in those most at risk from this virus and reduce hospitalisations as we head into colder weather and what will be a challenging period for our health service."
Chief Medical Officer Dr Michael McBride said it is expected that Covid-19 infections will continue to circulate in the coming months, coinciding with seasonal flu and other respiratory viruses.
"This will put inevitably put further pressure on our health service. Today's announcement by JCVI will enable the more vulnerable to be vaccinated again.
"This will maximise individual protection ahead of winter. Most of the people in this group will also be eligible for the annual flu vaccine and we strongly advise them to take up this invitation as well."
The JCVI has said that the flu and Covid-19 vaccines can be administered together where that is operationally practical.
Mr Swann said the potential for booster jabs for younger adults will be considered at a later time.
JCVI has already recommended that people who are severely immunosuppressed receive three doses of vaccine in their primary course.
Earlier today the health minister confirmed that Covid-19 vaccinations will be offered to children aged 12 to 15, with parental consent required.
The age group will be offered one dose of the Pfizer/BioNTech jab, primarily through a school-based vaccination programme. Children who are ‘at risk’ will receive two doses, eight weeks apart, in line with JCVI advice.
A programme for this age group in the Republic started last month and uptake has been high.
Another seven people have died after contracting Covid-19, the Department of Health confirmed today.
It means the total number of deaths recorded by the department stands at 2,468.
A further 1,590 cases of coronavirus were confirmed in the most recent 24-hour reporting period.