By James Ward, PA
Northern Ireland's Health Minister Robin Swann has hailed “another landmark”, as the region passed the one million mark for vaccines administered.
Some 813,468 people have now received their first dose of the vaccine, while 189,697 have received their second dose, bringing the total to 1,003,165 according to the latest figures available.
Mr Swann praised the role of the vaccination programme in bringing the region close to exiting lockdown.
Mr Swann said: “Vaccination is saving many lives in Northern Ireland. It is also protecting a great many others from serious illness and reducing pressures on our health and social care services.
“Let us not forget how serious the situation was at the turn of the year, with the vaccination programme in its infancy and Covid infection levels rising alarmingly.
“We are in a much better place today, thanks to the AstraZeneca and Pfizer vaccines and to public adherence to public health measures.
“As we move gradually out of lockdown, we should be very grateful for the vaccination programme’s role in getting us to this point.”
'Work to do'
He added: “Hitting the one million mark is undoubtedly another landmark to welcome, and more than 800,000 people have received a first dose.
“However, we still have work to do. I would strongly urge anyone who is eligible for a vaccine to get their jab at the earliest opportunity.
“I am certainly looking forward to getting my second AstraZeneca dose, and the protection that will bring, when my turn comes.”
Vaccines are being administered at regional vaccination centres, GP practices and about 350 community pharmacists, and appointments can now be booked by anyone over the age of 40.
Patricia Donnelly, head of Northern Ireland’s vaccination programme, said: “My thanks go to everyone involved in the rollout at every level for their commitment and enthusiasm.
“At every vaccination location I visit, the mood is the same – optimism and relief.
“We are determined to maintain the momentum. As ever, progress will be dependent on the availability of vaccine supplies.
“We expect supplies to be somewhat limited for the next few weeks and then to pick up again by the end of April or beginning of May.”
Chief medical officer Dr Michael McBride said: “If you are eligible for the vaccine don’t delay booking to get your jab. This will protect you and others and will in time allow all of us to do more of things that are important to us.”
Those wanting to book appointments can do so online at: https://covid-19.hscni.net/get-vaccinated.
Where online booking is not possible, the telephone booking number is 0300 200 7813.
Given current supply limits, GPs and community pharmacists will be largely focused on the 50-plus age group in the coming weeks.