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Northern Ireland receives first batch of Covid-19 vaccine

The vaccine will be rolled out in Northern Ireland from next week.

Image: Shutterstock/LookerStudio

THE FIRST BATCH of Covid-19 vaccines sent to Northern Ireland has arrived today, NI’s Department of Health has confirmed.

An initial 25,000 doses have been delivered to Northern Ireland of the Covid-19 vaccine from Pfizer/BioNTech.

The arrival of the batch means that vaccination can begin in Northern Ireland from early next week.

Health Minister Robin Swann said that the delivery of the vaccines was “hugely welcome”.

“We have been anticipating this news for many months and it is hugely welcome to receive the first batch of the vaccine today. I have been clear that we still have a long journey ahead of us but we can be optimistic,” Swann said.

“Following authorisation of the Pfizer and BioNTech vaccine by MHRA on Wednesday, we have been able to move swiftly to co-ordinate the arrival of the first consignment and will now be able to commence the planned roll-out from early next week.”

Swann said that the first group of people to receive the vaccine will be vaccinators themselves. 

Care home residents and staff and health and social care workers are then in the priority group to receive the first batch of the vaccine.

“There are significant logistical challenges with distributing the vaccine to care homes. The Department of Health is actively exploring all avenues to achieve this priority objective, within the conditions on distribution set by the regulating body MHRA,” Swann said.

“Vaccination will be a massive long-term logistical challenge. Our rate of progress will depend on available supplies that will be distributed as part of a UK-wide programme,” he said.

“Everyone will require two doses, with a number of weeks in between.”

Swann said that the rollout of the vaccine will “take up a large part of 2021″ and advised the public to be patient.

The UK formally approved the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine on Wednesday, with 40 million doses of the vaccine already purchased.

The vaccine was authorised by the UK’s Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Authority (MHRA) for emergency use.

In Ireland, advance purchase orders have been made for multiple vaccines as the government waits for the European Medicines Agency (EMA) to make a decision on whether vaccines that have been developed should be authorised.

Earlier this week, Tánaiste Leo Varadkar said that Ireland could see wider population Covid-19 immunity by next September.

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It is expected that a Covid-19 vaccine will start to be rolled out in Ireland from January.

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