Health Minister Robin Swann backs CMO Dr. Michael McBride and blames media - Everyone who receives vaccine could require booster shot in autumn - Extremely vulnerable ‘should all be vaccinated by early next month’

The Health Minister Robin Swann has backed Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Michael McBride after he was criticised for comments he made earlier this week about the potential need for restrictions remaining in place in 2022.

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Health Minister, Robin Swann.

LIVE UPDATES: Health Minister backs CMO over comments made about need for restrictions in 2022

Last updated: Friday, 12 February, 2021, 15:43

Extremely vulnerable ‘should all be vaccinated by early next month’

The clinically extremely vulnerable should all be vaccinated by early next month, Northern Ireland’s chief medical officer has said - writes Michael McHugh, PA.

Appointments for people with conditions like some cancers have to be carefully planned because their needs can be complex.

Some people receiving chemotherapy may need to have their treatment adjusted, Dr Michael McBride added.

“We are making massive progress, we are rolling out the vaccine,” he said, with the over-80s group almost completed.

Dr McBride told BBC Radio Ulster’s Stephen Nolan Show: “I am confident that we will have completed over-70s and clinically extremely vulnerable through February and perhaps into early March.

“There is a huge number of clinically extremely vulnerable.”

Those at particularly high risk from coronavirus include recipients of organ transplants, people undergoing radiotherapy, or those with a severe lung condition like cystic fibrosis.

Dr McBride said the health service is making significant progress in inoculating the over-65.

He added: “We are ahead of schedule, it is a tribute to everyone involved.”

There have been instances of people who are ineligible trying to book appointments by telephone and then abusing staff when turned down.

Dr McBride added: “Please be patient, we will get to you.

“We will get this vaccine to you as quickly as we possibly can, subject to the supply of vaccine.”

The Department of Health said on Friday that people who received a shielding letter because they are clinically extremely vulnerable to Covid-19 can now book a vaccination appointment.

The appointments will be available at the seven regional vaccination centres across the province.

A total of 381,894 jabs have been administered so far, head of the programme Patricia Donnelly said.

She urged those in the priority groups to come forward without delay.

Online and telephone booking for those aged 65-69 were introduced late last month, with a surge of initial appointments made.

Demand has slowed since then.

The department is advising that some slots are still available for the coming days.

Nine Covid-19 deaths in NI in last 24 hours

Nine Covid-19 related deaths have occurred in Northern Ireland in the last 24 hours, according to the Department of Health (DoH).

The latest information means the Covid-19 death toll since the beginning of the pandemic now stands at 1,975.

The nine deaths occurred in the following local council areas: Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon (three); Mid and East Antrim (three); Mid Ulster (two) and Causeway, Coast and Glens (one).

Five of the deceased were male and four were female.

One of the people to pass away was aged between 40 and 59; three were aged between 60 and 79 and five were either aged 80 or older.

The DoH also recorded 407 new infections - this is 60 per cent higher than the number of new infections reported yesterday (253).

It takes the number of new infections over the last seven days and since the pandemic began last year to 2,393 and 108,434 respectively.

There are 30 fewer inpatients in hospitals (488) across Northern Ireland than there were on Thursday.

The are 151 Intensive Care Unit (ICU) beds in Northern Ireland; 58 are occupied by patients with Covid-19; 60 are occupied by patients with other conditions and 33 are unoccupied.

Northern Ireland's hospital bed capacity is currently at 92 per cent.

Health Minister backs CMO over comments made about need for restrictions in 2022

The Health Minister Robin Swann has backed Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Michael McBride after he was criticised for comments he made earlier this week about the potential need for restrictions remaining in place in 2022.

On Tuesday, Dr. McBride was accused of painting a rather dreary picture of what life might look like in Northern Ireland in between six and 12 months.

Minister Swann defended the CMO when he was asked a question at a meeting of the Stormont health committee on Thursday.

DUP MLA and health committee member, Johnathan Buckley, told Minister Swann that some people had contacted him after they read a headline 'Covid restrictions may be in place until 2022'.

The headline referred to a report on a media briefing Dr. McBride gave to the media on Tuesday afternoon during which time he said: “Now, in terms of looking at this on a population basis we estimate that we would need somewhere in the region of 70-80% of the population vaccinated to have an impact in terms of levels of transmission for us to think about easing of restrictions.”

Minister Swann responded to Mr. Buckley's question in which he blamed the media for not reflecting the "substantive and detailed input the CMO gave" in the briefing.

"Some news outlets decided to run that headline and it's a pity they didn't run what was said in its entirety because if they had been present they would know the CMO gave an hour and a half long media briefing," said Minister Swann.

"I think unfortunately what was reported in the headline didn't actually reflect the substantive and detailed input the CMO gave in that media briefing.

"It's important we give hope but we must balance it with caution," said Minister Swann.

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