Drive-through vaccine clinics planned by GPs delivering Covid booster and winter flu jabs - with almost one million eligible for third dose
DRIVE-THROUGH clinics are being planned for the rollout of Covid boosters and winter flu jabs in Northern Ireland as doctors gear up to vaccinate almost a million people.
With the green-light given for a third dose for the over-50s, one leading GP said it was like a "starting gun going off" following months of preparation to deliver the two vaccines during one visit.
Dr Alan Stout said it will be a "complex" undertaking but one that was an "absolute priority" as the north heads into winter pressures when infection rates are already rocketing.
Those eligible for the booster shot - which also includes the under-50s with underlying health conditions - will mainly receive the Pfizer jab, which requires a 15 minute observation period post-jab.
Extra healthcare staff will be deployed to help with the next phase while discussions have been ongoing with councils so their facilities can be used if necessary.
"In terms of the winter flu jab, we usually vaccinate just under a million people a year so it will be around that figure we'll be targetting for both vaccines. It's big," said Dr Stout, who chairs the British Medical Association (BMA) GP committee in the north.
"But this is the announcement we've been waiting for. It's almost like a starting gun going off because we've been planning and having discussions in the background up until now without having the definitive go-ahead. We have it now from JCVI.
"We've bee pre-preparing practices for weeks about the 15-minute wait - it will be a factor. My own practice will do a drive-through clinic as will many others. If you've got space it's relatively easy to do it but there's also been lots of help from councils and the Public Health Agency.
"The bottom line is that this is an absolute priority, it's almost our top priority."
The move comes as Health Minister Robin Swann also confirmed the extension of the mass vaccination programme to 12-15 year-olds.
One dose of the Pfizer jab will be offered through a school-based programme.
Latest figures show that one in ten children were off school last week and Mr Swann said he hoped the vaccination of children and teenagers will help "prevent disruption in schools by reducing transmission".
Meanwhile, the £100 High Street voucher scheme is to open for registration on September 27, with the first cards due to released on October 4.
The £145m programme will offer pre-paid cards to all over-18s. The vouchers must be spent by the end of November.
People without online access can register by phone from October 11.