Second-jab changes could ‘jeopardise’ vaccine roll-out

Large-scale changes to second-jab appointments for coronavirus vaccinations could “potentially jeopardise the overall roll-out”, the head of Northern Ireland’s programme has warned.

Friday, 4th June 2021, 4:00 pm
Mark Nicolls receives an injection of the Moderna Covid-19 vaccine administered by nurse Amy Nash, at the Madejski Stadium in Reading, Berkshire. The Moderna vaccine is the third to be approved for use in the UK, and is now being given to patients in England. Picture date: Tuesday April 13, 2021.

Department of Health official Patricia Donnelly sounded the alarm after thousands of appointments for second vaccinations were cancelled in a short period of time.

The head of the roll-out said: “This programme is a massive and highly complex logistical undertaking requiring intense planning.”

Ms Donnelly appealed to people to keep their appointments.

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The Stormont health department revealed on Friday that over 1,000 requests to reschedule appointments had been received in recent days.

Ms Donnelly continued: “The ongoing cooperation of everyone to come forward for their second dose on their appointed date is crucial. Getting your second dose is not only vital in providing fuller and longer lasting protection against the virus, but also to enable the thousands of people working so hard managing the roll out to do so as effectively as possible.”

“This is why second appointments are automatically generated when a first appointment is booked to allow us to plan ahead, taking into account issues such as supplies of the various vaccines and availability of vaccination slots.”

She added: “It is the responsibility of each of us to ensure we are available for our second appointment. So we ask that where possible you avoid making commitments that clash with the date of your second dose – that includes booking flights and hotels – please look for alternative dates.”

Warning of the difficulties second-jab changes could pose, she said: “Any large scale changes could potentially jeopardise the overall roll-out of the programme.

“The success of the vaccine programme in Northern Ireland has been built on an amazing public response which has seen over one million people receive their first dose. Their cooperation has played a major part in bringing us to where we are today. It is imperative however that we recognise how important it is, that in order to maintain that progress the full and effective roll out is maintained.”

The latest figures from the Department of Health show that a total of 1,771,123 vaccines have been administered in Northern Ireland.

Of that total, 1,078,917 were first doses and 692,206 were second doses — translating to roughly 74% and 48% of the adult population.