Foster: People need to take AstraZeneca jab to leave lockdown behind

Michael McHugh, PA
·3-min read

People need to take the AstraZeneca vaccine to leave lockdown in the rear view mirror, Northern Ireland’s First Minister Arlene Foster has said.

Ireland has temporarily paused administration of doses after reports of people suffering blood clots in Europe.

Mrs Foster will be booking her jab for this week or next after the rollout was extended to those aged over 50.

The DUP leader said: “The MHRA (Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency) have been very clear that it is safe to take the AstraZeneca vaccine.

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“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.

“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.”

Stormont Health Minister Robin Swann said the MHRA was the UK’s guiding body on vaccines.

He said: “They have come back to us with the same stance that has been taken by the World Health Organisation, the European Medicines Agency, they do not see the direct link that seems to have alerted the Irish authorities.”

Mr Swann said that was why they were rolling out the vaccine to the over-50s from Monday.

Ireland has said it is temporarily halting delivery of the jab out of an abundance of caution.

It has not suggested any evidence of a direct link with clotting.

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Four serious cases were recorded in Norway recently in which inoculated people had to be treated in hospital.

Stormont ministers are to meet on Tuesday to discuss easing the lockdown restrictions.

Decisions are expected to focus on schooling and allowing more outdoor activities for young people.

Mr Swann said curbs could only be eased with caution.

He added: “We also do it with the added benefit of our vaccine programme as well but we have to be careful that we do this at the appropriate speed, at the right step, so that we do not actually lose the benefit that the vaccine programme is bringing.”

Mrs Foster said ministers’ priorities would be reopening outdoor activities “sooner rather than later” and young people.

She added: “That is the sort of area which we will be stepping into.”

Mrs Foster said she hoped people had the opportunity to come together to mark Easter, although it may be outside at this stage.