Problems with flu vaccine roll-out won’t be repeated with coronavirus vaccination plan, insists NI Health Minister Robin Swann

Health Minister Robin Swann has said the roll-out of flu vaccines shows Northern Ireland is capable of carrying out a large scale coronavirus immunisation programme, despite the problems with the flu vaccine earlier this year.

By Niall Deeney
Thursday, 3rd December 2020, 3:35 pm
Updated Thursday, 3rd December 2020, 4:41 pm

Speaking at the Stormont health committee on Thursday morning, he sought to assure people problems with the flu vaccine roll-out won’t be repeated with the coronavirus jab.

Speaking at the Stormont health committee, Mr Swann was asked by Sinn Fein MLA Pat Sheehan whether people will have any “confidence” in the plans being put forward in light of the problems with the flu vaccine.

Stocks of some flu vaccines ran out in Northern Ireland earlier this after a surge in demand but extra stocks for Northern Ireland have now arrived, Mr Swann said.

Robin Swann

Addressing the concerns raised by Mr Sheehan, the minister said the flu vaccine programme had gone “too well”.

“In regards to the flu vaccine — we were clear, we got our initial batch of 660,000 which is our normal flu vaccines for a year,” he said.

“We deployed that in the first 26 days. It actually showed us, that working with our partners in primary care and community pharmacy that when it came to having a vaccine that could be deployed in their settings, that utilising their skills, we could deploy a large scale vaccination programme very quickly, very effectively.”

Mr Swann continued: “Maybe what we did on the flu vaccine was, actually, we did too well in the first few days where we got a large volume out before our second batches had arrived.

We have additional flu vaccine now. I was able to pick up an extra 15,000 flu vaccines for the over 65s from the British government. They were able to give us that additional supply as well.”

He argued that showed the purchasing power of the UK, which has benefits for Northern Ireland when it comes to the coronavirus vaccine.

“Being part of the UK has given us that additional purchasing power that allowed us to buy seven different [coronavirus] vaccines, so that they will be ready, they will be available to us at a Northern Ireland level as a Barnett consequential,” he said.