Northern Ireland news

Health minister gets first Covid jab as vaccines rolled out to 45-49 age group

Robin Swann received his first Covid jab in a Ballymena pharmacy yesterday

HEALTH minister Robin Swann has urged everyone eligible for a coronavirus vaccine to book their appointments as he received his jab yesterday following the programme's extension to the over-45s.

Mr Swann (49) was given his first AstraZeneca dose at a Ballee Pharmacy in Ballymena, Co Antrim.

The online booking system was opened yesterday for those between the ages of 45 and 49 as the roll-out continues at pace.

While the uptake rate has been high to date, with more than half the adult population now inoculated with their first jab, there are concerns about hesitancy among some younger age groups due to unfounded claims about the jab affecting fertility.

Mr Swann emphasised the importance of as many people getting vaccinated as quickly as possible.

"Today I came to community pharmacy and got the Oxford AstraZeneca vaccine which is the one we are using mainly across Northern Ireland," he said.

"It is important that we get as many people vaccinated as quickly as possible, that's why we are putting such a concerted effort into this programme, and that's why we're seeing such a great uptake across Northern Ireland from those eligible.

"For those people who are still hesitant, I am confident enough to come here today to take Oxford AstraZeneca because my age profile now fits in, so when yours does as well, I'll ask anyone, please come forward.

"There are booking slots, we're making them available across Northern Ireland, at regional centres, GPs and community pharmacy as well."

People have been urged to book online or, if that is not possible, to use the telephone booking number 0300 200 7813.

Those eligible for vaccination can also wait for their GP to contact them to arrange their jab.

The 45-49 age bracket is defined as everyone born between 01/04/1971 and 31/03/1976.

To date, 887,598 vaccines had been administered in the north, of which 749,112 of which were first jabs and 138,486 second doses.

Meanwhile, no coronavirus deaths were recorded yesterday while 123 new cases were confirmed.

The Department of Health death toll remains at 2,116.

There have been 977 recorded cases over the past seven days, down from 1,031 over the previous week.

There are 118 patients in hospital being treated with the virus. Of these, 17 are in intensive care and nine are on ventilators.

In the Republic, there were six further virus-related deaths and 411 new cases.

Deputy Chief Medical Officer Ronan Glynn said there is "a critical window" in the coming weeks to prevent a "significant" fourth wave of Covid-19 infection.

He warned that people "have to work together" to avoid such a situation.

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Northern Ireland news