Oxford coronavirus vaccine rollout begins in Northern Ireland

Michael McHugh and Rebecca Black, PA
·3-min read

Eileen Lynch, 94, gave the thumbs up after becoming one of the first people in Northern Ireland to receive the Oxford/AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine.

It was delivered at a GP surgery on the Falls Road in West Belfast on Monday afternoon.

Up to 11,000 people aged over 80 are set to receive the jab this week.

John Grey, 84, leaned on his walking stick and said: “I am relieved, let’s say that.

“It has been hard for my partner and myself.”

HEALTH Coronavirus
(PA Graphics)

His partner will have to wait a little longer for the vaccination.

Mr Grey added: “Other than that I am very happy to be here.”

A batch of 50,000 doses has been allocated.

Those aged over 80 will be prioritised initially.

Mr Grey added that he had been through adversity before – including the Second World War Blitz.

“I was not terrified of it, let’s put it like that.

“You just accept that there is a risk.”

The country has moved to accelerate delivery of the inoculation as the pace of the pandemic has picked up.

The new and more infectious variant of Covid-19 has been detected in Northern Ireland.

The number of coronavirus infections has increased rapidly.

John Grey receives the first of two doses of the Oxford/AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine at Falls Surgery in Belfast
John Grey receives the first of two doses of the Oxford/AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine at Falls Surgery in Belfast (Liam McBurney/PA)

Chief medical officers across the UK have decided to delay delivery of the second shot of vaccines.

Northern Ireland’s chief medical officer, Dr Michael McBride, said: “It is a step change in terms of the vaccine programme, because this is (a programme) that will allow us to get the vaccine out to people through general practices and what we now need to do is continue to vaccinate those most vulnerable and at risk as safely and quickly as we possibly can.”

He added: “It most certainly is a game changer.

“It is what we have been waiting for.”

Around 40,000 people have been vaccinated already.

Seven health trust-based centres have been opened and local government premises have been used.

More than 40 GP practices are available from Monday with many, many more to come online, Dr McBride added.

He said: “Within a few short weeks we will have everyone aged over 80 vaccinated.”

The senior medic defended the decision to prioritise first doses and said criticism was not fully informed.

Dr McBride said Pfizer’s vaccine provided more than 90% immunity from a first dose, AstraZeneca’s more than 70%, and that did not diminish beyond 21 days.

He added: “That is going to make rapid inroads into those people most at risk.

“That is also how we reduce pressures on our health services.”

The intention of officials is that the maximum number of people receive their first jab, with its partial protection, as quickly as possible to help stem the tide of cases which threatens to overwhelm the health service.

The BMA’s Northern Ireland chairman, Dr Tom Black, said: “A delayed Pfizer second dose is a mistake. Everybody knows.”

Northern Ireland is in the second week of a six-week lockdown in which non-essential retail is closed.