By David Young, PA
Long queues have continued to form at vaccine centres across Northern Ireland amid huge demand for booster doses.
Healthcare staff are volunteering to come in to work on days off to help deal with the numbers at health trust booster facilities like the one at the Ulster Hospital on the outskirts of Belfast.
People started lining up at the hospital in Dundonald from 7am, over an hour before the centre’s doors opened.
The Ulster Hospital facility also remained open well beyond its scheduled closing time on Monday evening to ensure no one seeking a jab was turned away.
The wait time in the queue on Tuesday morning was three hours.
One of those standing in line for his jab was MP for East Belfast Gavin Robinson.
Many of those in the queue were in the 30 to 39 age cohort, who became eligible for walk-in jabs at the weekend, as long as they were three months beyond their last dose.
Tanya Daly, the clinical lead for the vaccine programme at the South Eastern Trust, said the response had been “phenomenal”.
“The public have come forward, they’ve listened to the message that the Minister (Robin Swann) has set out, that the Department of Health has set out and they’ve stepped up and have come forward for their booster.
“So they understand this is a highly transmissible variant (Omicron) and they need their booster and they’ve stepped up and come forward.”
She added: “We do have large queues and we’d just like to thank the public for their patience and for waiting.
“We have had people waiting outside at 7am this morning and we didn’t open until 8.15am.
“So it has been absolutely phenomenal. People I think are very realistic, they understand the benefits of getting the booster.”
Ms Daly said the vaccinators in the centre were “tired but determined”.
“We know across Northern Ireland all the regional centres have experienced the lengthy queues as well, just due to the demand,” she said.
“But I just want to reassure everybody, our staff are working very, very hard.
“Everybody stayed long beyond their finishing time yesterday and are prepared to continue to do so for the remainder of the week, as long as we can get as many people vaccinated as possible.
“We have staff that have turned up today on their day off just to come in and help.
“Staff have decided to come in and help us out because they know the importance of this.
“If we know that we get the boosters into people we know they’re not going to translate into hospital admissions.
“And that’s our aim, we don’t want people to get sick, we don’t want our economy to fall down, we don’t want our colleagues to get sick, we don’t want our family to get sick.
“So staff are really stepping up.”
One of those who received a booster on Tuesday was 25-year-old Jordan Reid from south Belfast.
Ms Reid, who is a paediatric nurse, was eligible for a jab due to her role as a frontline healthcare worker.
“With rising case numbers and the fact that our health service is under pressure in winter any way I thought it was important to get the booster to protect not just myself, but loads of other people too, those who I come in contact with every day,” she said.
“I also have vulnerable people close to me in my life so I thought it was important to protect them as well, so that’s why I got the booster today.”
Ms Reid said she was surprised at the length of the queues.
“There are really long queues which is so good as well, people are coming forward to get it and people understand the importance of it,” she said.