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Northern Ireland's Chief Medical Officer receives first dose of AstraZeneca vaccine

AstraZeneca remains in use in the North as other countries put it on pause.

Image: PA

NORTHERN IRELAND’S CHIEF Medical Officer has received his first dose of a vaccine against Covid-19 this morning.

Dr Michael McBride received an AstraZeneca dose at a vaccination centre in Ulster Hospital, Co Down.

The NI Department of Health said Dr McBride was “delighted to get the AstraZeneca vaccine this morning” and “welcomed the opportunity”.

He has joined 629,461 people who have received a first vaccine dose in Northern Ireland as of 11.40am today.

54,636 have received a second dose, and 5,452 doses were administered in the last 24 hours.

Northern Ireland, along with the rest of the UK, is continuing to deliver the AstraZeneca vaccine while other countries pause its use as a precautionary measure.

Over the weekend, Ireland joined Norway, Denmark and Iceland in temporarily suspending the vaccine after some concerns were raised about patients who had been inoculated developing blood clots.

The Health Products Regulatory Authority said yesterday that there is “currently no indication that the vaccine was the cause of these events and there may be alternative explanations for their occurrence that are unrelated to the vaccine”. 

“However, the safety of the public is of the utmost importance, and it is essential that reports of potential safety concerns, even if very rare, are rigorously and swiftly investigated so that the public can be reassured and if required, appropriate action can be taken,” it said. 

The equivalent authority in the UK – the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency – is still recommending the use of the AstraZeneca vaccine.

The MHRA said it is “aware of the action in Ireland”.

“We are closely reviewing reports but given the large number of doses administered, and the frequency at which blood clots can occur naturally, the evidence available does not suggest the vaccine is the cause,” it said.

The rollout of the vaccine is continuing as planned in Northern Ireland.

First Minister Arlene Foster is due to receive the vaccine in the next two weeks.

“I am looking forward to taking it, either this week or next week, depending on when I am able to get my vaccine booked for but it is very important that people continue to take the vaccine,” Foster said.

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“We have made huge progress in the UK in relation to the vaccine so it is important that people continue to do that so we can leave lockdown in the rear view mirror and we can move on with our lives,” she said. 

Here, the vaccine target has been reduced by 30,000 in the coming days due to the deferral of AstraZeneca.

The HSE told TheJournal.ie that 80,000 vaccines were due to be administered in Ireland this week.

“We now expect to administer approximately 50,000,” the HSE said.

“While we are expecting to administer about 30,000 less than planned they would not all be ‘cancelled appointments’ as specific appointments would not have been made for many later in the week.”

Additional reporting by the Press Association.

About the author:

Lauren Boland

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