Robin Swann tells employers to be ‘flexible’ on vaccines amid ‘logistical challenge’ of second-doses

Employers have been told they need to show flexibility to allow people to attend their second-vaccine appointments, with rescheduling requests adding to the “logistical and admin challenge” of running the programme.

Thursday, 17th June 2021, 4:23 pm
Updated Friday, 18th June 2021, 11:56 am

Health Minister Robin Swann issued the plea on Thursday, less than a day after chief scientific advisor Professor Ian Young had warned that mathematical models show the potential for another surge in cases and hospital admissions fuelled by the Delta variant.

Mr Swann said: “The more we vaccinate and the quicker we do it by getting more first and second doses given, the sooner society can resume some form of normality.”

The second dose of coronavirus vaccine is thought to be crucial in providing immunity against the Delta variant, with a single dose less effective than with other variants.

Sign up to our public interest bulletins - get the latest news on the Coronavirus

Sign up to our public interest bulletins - get the latest news on the Coronavirus

PACEMAKER BELFAST 29/03/2021 The first vaccination has been delivered after the SSE Arena in Belfast opened as a mass vaccination centre on Monday. Up to 1,850 vaccines are due to be administered at the venue on Monday. It is expected that 40,000 people could be vaccinated each week at the arena, where the AstraZeneca jab will be used. Health officials plan to operate the vaccination service at the venue up to 14 hours a day, seven days a week PHOTO STEPHEN DAVISON/PACEMAKER PRESS

Earlier this month, the chief medical officer Dr Sir Michael McBride announced second doses would be given more quickly after their first than previously, due to the added risks associated with the Delta strain.

But Mr Swann has now warned of an “ongoing issue at present with people seeking to reschedule their second dose dates.”

It is the second warning about people not attending their second-dose appointment in the past fortnight.

The head of the vaccine roll-out, Patricia Donnelly, had warned that “large scale changes” due to people not keeping their original appointment date for their second dose could “potentially jeopardise the overall roll-out of the programme.”

Now, Mr Swann has appeared to pin some of the blame on inflexible employers.

“Work commitments are one of the reasons being cited for these requests,” he said. “While the advice is still to work from home we recognise that many more people are based back in their workplace now than was the case in the early months of the programme.

“I would appeal to employers to be as flexible as they can if staff need time away to get their jabs.”

The Minister continued: “Vaccination is in everyone’s best interests – including our work colleagues. “Work commitments are one of the reasons being cited for these requests. While the advice is still to work from home we recognise that many more people are based back in their workplace now than was the case in the early months of the programme. I would appeal to employers to be as flexible as they can if staff need time away to get their jabs.”