Northern Ireland’s Covid-19 vaccination centres are now offering first dose appointments to everyone aged 18 and over, as part of the drive to get as many people vaccinated as quickly as possible.
In recent weeks, the centres have been focussing on the 18-39 age group, with community pharmacies offering vaccine appointments to those aged 40 and over.
From 9am today, anyone aged 18 plus can book a vaccine appointment at the vaccination centres. These centres are using the Pfizer vaccine for first doses.
Today’s announcement has been made possible due to a scheduled increase in supplies of the Pfizer vaccine.
To book online go to: https://covid-19.hscni.net/get-vaccinated/
For those who cannot book online, appointments can also be made using the telephone service 0300 200 7813.
You should not book if you already have a vaccination appointment with your GP or community pharmacy. Community pharmacies continue to be available to book a vaccination slot for those aged 40 years and over. Due to the additional availability of the Pfizer vaccine to all age cohorts through Trust centres, community pharmacies will no longer be offering vaccination to under 40s at this time.
Health Minister Robin Swann said: “I have been contacted by people in the 40 plus age group who wanted to be able to book their vaccine jabs in a vaccination centre. They can now do so.
“The vaccination programme has already reached about 80% of 40-49-year-olds. I believe today’s announcement will help push that figure up even higher.
“Some appointment slots are still available at the centres for this weekend and we are today opening a fresh batch of slots for next week.
“My advice to everyone who has not yet come forward is to get your jab as soon as you can. The emergence and spread of the Covid-19 Delta variant demonstrates that the virus remains a serious threat.
“Getting vaccinated protects you and protects others. Vaccination is also essential to our pathway back to normality.”
The Trust-run vaccination centres are located at: SSE Arena, Belfast; Foyle Arena, Derry/Londonderry; Omagh Leisure Centre; Lakeland Forum, Enniskillen; South Lake Leisure Centre, Craigavon; Seven Towers Leisure Centre, Ballymena; and Royal Victoria Hospital, Belfast.
Chief Medical Officer Sir Michael McBride urged all those who have not yet had their jab to book as soon as possible.
He also underlined the importance of vaccination to young people, saying: “Young people have had a particularly tough time during the pandemic and have made immense sacrifices.
“They should see vaccination as a passport to a better life. They might think that their age protects them from the virus but that will not be the case for some of them. Also, when they get the vaccine, they are helping to protect their parents and grandparents and other older people they care about.
“This is the case even if those parents and grandparents have themselves been vaccinated. No vaccine ever provides 100% protection to 100% of people, but the more people we get covered, the harder it becomes for the virus to spread and do damage.”
A number of localised initiatives are planned to help encourage take-up in June and July. These will include mobile, evening and walk-in clinics at different locations.
Vaccine supplies will be further boosted with the Moderna vaccine being deployed in Northern Ireland from next week.
Patricia Donnelly, head of Northern Ireland’s vaccination programme, said: “While walk-in clinics will suit some people better, I would still encourage as many people as possible to book.
“Booking helps us on the planning front, but also offers people a fast track in and out of the vaccination centres, at a specific time of their choosing.
“We are looking at all options that will help as many people as possible get both doses by the end of the summer.
“We are also speaking to the SSE Arena about whether a short extension to the vaccination centre operation may be feasible to facilitate second doses. Discussions are ongoing and we will update in due course.”