Lower NI vaccine uptake is ‘down to delay rather than reluctance’

The head of Northern Ireland’s vaccine roll-out has insisted there is no “reluctance” amongst young people when it comes to taking their jabs.

First year student Tiernan Feeney gets the jab at Queen's University.
 Pic Colm Lenaghan/ Pacemaker
First year student Tiernan Feeney gets the jab at Queen's University. Pic Colm Lenaghan/ Pacemaker

Patricia Donnelly was speaking as walk-in vaccination centres opened at universities and higher education campuses across Northern Ireland.

Whilst Northern Ireland is behind the rest of the UK in vaccination numbers, Ms Donnelly told the BBC this is down to “delay” rather than “reluctance”.

She said: “I don’t think it shows a reluctance, it shows a delay, I think people take time to make their minds up. We just have to get the teams to the right location, and if they’re in the right places, people will come.”

Pop up vaccination centres took place over the weekend, with a team in Limelight nightclub, Belfast, vaccinating 350 people over the two days. Whilst further teams across the city vaccinated a further 600 people, and another 360 people in Portadown.

Walk-in centres are taking place on university campuses and locations to suit young people, at times that are convenient. It is being deemed a ‘jabathon’.

Patricia Donnelly told the BBC: “Its preparation for the start of term. If you go on to NI direct website you can find information about it, however every college or university will have communicated directly with the students.

“They walk in and they just need to have ID and they’ll get vaccinated.”

She also spoke about why getting the vaccine was important for young people saying: “Young, healthy people are still getting ill, and we shouldn’t forget that.

“Getting vaccinated does protect you and also the people around you. And for young people in education, it protects that.From what we’ve seen, social life is getting back to normal, and the vaccine is creating those opportunities.”

President of NUS-USI, Ellen Fearon told the BBC: “I really think the message is to make getting your vaccine a normal part of your freshers checklist.”

The latest vaccine figures show that 87.86% of people in Northern Ireland are now vaccinated.

506 vaccinations were rolled out on Sunday, with 96 of them being the second dose.

This number takes Northern Ireland to a total of 1,196,000 people who are double jabbed, with a further 101,882 people awaiting their second dose. 100% of people aged 70+ are vaccinated, whilst only 72.2% of 18 to 29 year olds are fully vaccinated.

60 to 69 year olds are just 0.27% away from that age group being full vaccinated.