The first Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine has been administered in Northern Ireland today.
Ninety-four-year-old Eileen Lynch has become the first person in Northern Ireland in the over 80 category to receive the vaccine developed by Oxford University and AstraZeneca.
Eileen received the vaccine from Dr Michael McKenna at her local GP surgery on the Falls Road, Belfast.
The rollout of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine follows approval from the Medicines & Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) last week and paves the way for a significant acceleration of Northern Ireland’s vaccination programme.
Speaking at the vaccination clinic, Chief Medical Officer Dr Michael McBride said: “Today marks the first phase of our population vaccination programme and is a positive step forward. The vaccine programme will transform the situation but as always we must all remain patient.
“First and foremost we must act to protect those most at risk of severe disease and death.
“As approved by the MHRA and recommended by the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) prioritisation will be given to those aged 80 years and over. The programme will then be rolled out based on age and other clinical vulnerability factors.”
The JCVI has recently updated its guidance and has recommended that as many people on the JCVI priority list as possible should be offered a first vaccine dose as the initial priority.
Dr McBride said: “The evidence has very clearly shown that both the Pfizer/BioNTech and the Oxford/Astra Zeneca vaccines provide very high levels of protection after the first dose.
“Providing that level of protection on a large scale will have the greatest impact on reducing death and hospitalisations, protecting the Health and Social Care system. It is the right thing to do for the public health.”
Speaking after receiving her vaccine, Eileen said: “I am delighted and privileged to receive the Covid vaccine today. I feel like I can really look forward to the year ahead now that I have been vaccinated.
“The nurses, doctors and staff have all been brilliant today so I would also like to say thank you to them.”
Dr McKenna said: “We are very pleased to get this vaccination programme started for this vulnerable group of people. Many of this group will have been virtually housebound since the start of the pandemic so today’s vaccinations are very welcome.
“I, like other GP practices, look forward to vaccinating more of my patients who are 80 or over in the coming weeks, moving on thereafter to other patient groups.”