Mass vaccination centres may need to return: MLA

Northern Ireland may need to reintroduce mass walk-in vaccination centres to speed up the delivery of the Covid booster jab, MLAs have been told.

By The Newsroom
Tuesday, 2nd November 2021, 7:29 am
Updated Tuesday, 2nd November 2021, 7:33 am

Colm Gildernew, chair of the Stormont health committee, said that GP practices are “ill-prepared” to hand out the jabs because of the pressure they are under.

He urged Health Minister Robin Swann to find solutions and indicated now may be the time to call an emergency health summit to discuss the vaccination roll-out and pressures on the healthcare system.

Following a meeting with health officials yesterday, Mr Swann said he expects increased numbers to get the booster jab in coming days and weeks.

The chair of the Stormont health committee said GP practices are ‘ill-prepared’ to hand out the jabs because of the pressure they are under

He said: “I was assured that 210,000 doses have already been ordered by GP practices, for use as booster doses within a three-week window.

“Many more will follow as GPs continue to invite eligible patients in for their boosters.

“In addition, a long list of participating pharmacies across Northern Ireland will be providing booster jabs to those aged 50 or over.”

It comes as 10 further deaths of patients who had previously tested positive for Covid-19 were reported in Northern Ireland along with another 948 cases of the virus.

Yesterday morning there were 326 Covid-positive patients in hospital, of whom 36 were in intensive care.

Northern Ireland has the lowest roll-out rate of the Covid booster jab in the UK.

The jab is available for those over the age of 50, to be administered no earlier than six months after they have received their second jab.

In an Assembly statement yesterday, Mr Gildernew said he had been contacted by various worried patients “who should have received their booster vaccine weeks ago”.

He added: “We have been told that booster vaccines will be given at GP practices, but GP practices are ill-prepared to provide these services given the pressures they are currently experiencing.

“There is also confusion around where first, second and third Covid vaccines will be administered.

“It is vitally important that we get this right as we still need to encourage uptake of the vaccine given that our numbers are extremely low here compared to other regions.”

The Sinn Fein MLA also referred to pressures facing hospital emergency departments.

He added: “We must have some solutions from the minister for health before the healthcare system collapses.

“We need a robust vaccination campaign, one that effectively examines the role that volunteer vaccinators can play in moving the vaccine campaign along at pace.

“We may indeed also need to consider reopening walk-in centres once more so that we can get these vaccines rolled out as soon, and as effectively, as possible.”