Northern Ireland news

Pop-up vaccine centres to begin in Co Down as part of major drive to tackle Delta variant

Mobile Covid vaccine clinics will be rolled out this weekend in Co Down
Seanín Graham

'POP-UP' vaccination clinics are to begin in Co Down this weekend as part of a drive to tackle the spread of the more infectious Delta variant across Northern Ireland.

Castlewellan and Newcastle are the bases for the initiative with healthcare staff administering coronavirus jabs on two buses.

The South Eastern trust is overseeing the rollout and confirmed that "probable" cases of the Delta strain have been identified in Castlewellan.

Other locations will be targeted over the coming days and weeks with Department of Health officials describing the mobile vaccination teams as "integral" in the final rollout of the programme.

No booking is required though those attending - only those aged 18 and over are eligible - must have photographic ID or proof of address.

The Moderna vaccine will be used and the mobile teams will return six weeks later to deliver second doses.

Cases of the more transmissible Delta strain are rising in the north and were last week linked to half of new cases. Like England, it is expected the dominant strain.

However, to date the increase in infections has not impacted on hospital and ICU admissions.

Research shows that two doses of the vaccine dramatically reduces the risk of severe illness or hospitalisation in someone who becomes infected with the Delta strain, which was first detected in India.

With 80 per cent of adults in the north now vaccinated with their first jab and almost 60 per cent fully protected with both doses, there is a push to get up to 95 per cent inoculated with their initial dose by the end of July.

The vaccination buses will be in Castlewellan Community Centre, 32 Circular Road, Castlewellan, this Saturday July 3 from 11.00am to 7.00pm and in Newcastle's Donard Car Park the following day from 11.00am to 7.00pm.

Meanwhile, health minister Robin Swann has made a personal plea urging people who have not been jabbed to get vaccinated, saying the programme "opens doors to normality".

"Please don’t put off your turn. The right time is now," he says.

"Vaccination helps us reclaim our lives. We all want to keep enjoying the things we have missed so much - going out, meeting up, enjoying ourselves with family and friends.

"It now also seems that some foreign travel and indeed some other activities and events may require official proof you have had both jabs.

"One way or another, vaccination opens doors to normality."

The SSE Arena in Belfast is now also offering walk-in vaccinations to those aged 18 and over.

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