By Jonathan McCambridge, PA
A major drive to vaccinate students in the North against Covid-19 has been announced.
The “Jabbathon” initiative will involve 60 walk-in clinics across some 30 campuses – offering first jabs to students in universities and further education colleges.
The effort follows the Big Jab Weekend last month in which 12,052 first doses were administered, along with 9,622 second doses.
The take-up rate for first doses in Northern Ireland is now close to 90 per cent of the adult population. However, concerns have been raised that vaccination rates have not been as high among younger members of society.
The new academic year for university students begins later this month.
The North's Health Minister Robin Swann said: “I very much welcome the Jabbathon initiative and thank all those across the health and further and higher education sectors for their work in making this happen.
“A growing number of young people have been coming forward to get their jab and I am sure this extensive programme of targeted walk-in clinics will further increase take-up.
“By getting vaccinated, students will be playing a vital part in getting normality back – reducing the threat of disruption to their education and all aspects of student life.”
The initiative will be on top of an ongoing programme of localised walk-in mobile clinics for everyone aged 16 and over in high footfall locations, such as town centres and shopping centres.
Plans have also been confirmed for walk-in vaccination clinics at the Balmoral Show later this month.
The North’s mass vaccination clinics, which have been concentrating mainly on administering second vaccines doses since the end of July, will cease operating this weekend.
Vaccination will continue to be available through a network of participating pharmacies.
Mr Swann paid tribute to the contribution of the mass vaccination clinics.
He said: “I want to thank everyone involved in these centres for their tireless work and inspirational commitment. They should certainly take pride in what has been achieved.
“Of course, we have more work still to do to further increase take-up and I am very pleased that the number of participating pharmacies is going to be increased significantly.”