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Northern Ireland’s First Minister has declined to say if all of his DUP party’s MLAs have received the Covid-19 vaccine.
Paul Givan was challenged by SDLP MLA Pat Catney to introduce a mandatory Covid-19 vaccine certificate.
Both Mr Givan and deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill have expressed reservations about the move, stating last week that they would prefer public co-operation with health measures.
Mr Catney said unvaccinated Covid-19 patients over the age of 50 are five times more like to be admitted to hospital, and urged Mr Givan to “show leadership and make Covid certificates mandatory in spaces where social distancing requirements have been removed …. to prevent a further lockdown”.
Mr Givan said the “overwhelming majority” of those over 50 have been vaccinated.
He said mandatory vaccine certificates would require the weighing up of equality impact considerations.
Mr Catney also asked Mr Givan to confirm whether all the DUP MLAs have received both doses of the jab.
Mr Givan said he “regrets this demand to ask people if they have been vaccinated or not”.
“We’re at a point in our society where people who have not got the vaccine, and I wish they did, but they haven’t got it and it is not the place of either members of this society to be asking people, ‘have you been vaccinated or not’, we don’t do it for any other type of illness,” he responded.
“Nobody walks up to somebody and says ‘are you on medication because of your depression’, or ‘are you taking medication because you’ve got a heart condition’ … and there comes a point where we need to respect people’s decisions when it comes to this.
“I have received my vaccination, I have taken both vaccinations, but the way in which people are trying to coerce people actually is counterproductive.”