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Arlene Foster receives her first Covid-19 vaccine

Northern Ireland’s programme has opened to the 50-and-over age cohort.

Image: PA

NORTHERN IRELAND’S FIRST Minister has received her first dose of Covid-19 vaccine.

Arlene Foster was given an AstraZeneca jab by GP Dr John Porteous at the Castle Park leisure centre in Lisnaskea in her Co Fermanagh constituency on this morning.

The 50-year-old DUP leader became eligible for the vaccine earlier this month when Northern Ireland’s programme opened to the 50-and-over age cohort.

Stormont deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill and Health Minister Robin Swann will have to wait to be vaccinated as they are in the 40 to 49 age bracket.

As of Friday, 825,310 vaccines had been administered in Northern Ireland – 711,673 of which were first doses and 113,637 were second doses.

The region is on course to offer first jabs to the entire adult population – 1.4 million – by July.

On Monday a new mass vaccination centre will begin operations in Belfast’s SSE Arena.

After receiving her jab, Foster said: “I’m just delighted to take my turn and get the vaccine today.

“There is a really positive community spirit here and across all of our centres in a collective effort to combat Covid-19.

“I am grateful to all of the wonderful team of medics and volunteers who are making this happen in GP practices and centres across Northern Ireland every day of the week.

“The programme is having real results. We are seeing falling levels of infection in our over-60s and I’m heartened to see the number of active outbreaks in our care homes reduce well into single figures.

“This week we hit more milestones as over 700,000 got the vaccine for the first time and over 110,000 people got their second jab.

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“I’m pleased now to be one of those important statistics. The more of us that get the vaccine, the quicker we will find our way out of this.

“The programme is now expanding with the launch of the SSE Arena facility on Monday. I would encourage everyone who is eligible to step up and get booked in, to help protect themselves and their community.”

In the Republic, a total of 529,984 have now received their first dose of a Covid-19 vaccine, as of 24 March, representing 11.13% of the population.

Some 202,700 people have received both doses, meaning 4.26% of the population has the full protection offered by the vaccines.

The total number of doses administered is expected to surpass 750,000 by this weekend.

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