By Jonathan McCambridge, PA
Almost 30,000 Covid vaccine booster doses have been administered in Northern Ireland, the region's Health Minister has told the Assembly.
Robin Swann also gave an assurance that there was no shortage of booster doses available after concerns were raised by an MLA.
During ministerial question time, Mr Swann said: “The JCVI [Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation] has advised that the groups one to nine (care home and frontline healthcare workers, those who are clinically vulnerable and those over the age of 50) prioritised in the phase one of the Covid-19 vaccination programme should be offered a booster dose of the vaccine.
“JCVI advice is that the booster vaccine should be offered no earlier than six months after completion of the primary vaccine.
“The six-month interval will drive the timeline for eligibility and delivery. The various health and social care trusts began booster vaccination programmes in care homes in the week commencing September 20.
“As of midday today, 29,836 booster doses have been delivered as well as 4,123 third doses.”
Mr Swann said GPs would shortly start contacting patients over the age of 50 who received their second vaccine dose six or more months ago.
He also said that 220 community pharmacists would be involved in the rollout of the booster programme.
He added: “It is hoped the majority of eligible people will have received their booster by the end of this year.”
NI #COVID19 data has been updated:
📊1,367 positive cases and sadly, 8 deaths have been reported in the past 24 hours.
💉2,578,675 vaccines administered in total.
— Department of Health (@healthdpt) October 19, 2021
DUP MLA George Robinson said: “Can the minister give me an assurance that there will be a sufficient supply of booster vaccines available?
“Concern has been expressed to me by health professionals that there may be a shortfall.”
The Minister said: “I can assure the member there is no shortfall of booster dose vaccines that will be available.”
Alliance Party MLA Kellie Armstrong asked if 16 and 17-year-olds in the North would receive a second dose of the Covid vaccine.
Mr Swann said: “Sixteen and 17-year-olds have been offered the first dose.
“JCVI are currently monitoring the implementation of a second dose and once we receive that guidance from them, whether it is necessary to proceed and when it is necessary to proceed, we will do so.”