Ireland hot on NI’s heels as vaccine uptake slows down

Despite a slow early start, the Republic of Ireland has now largely caught up with Northern Ireland in terms of its vaccine rates.

By Adam Kula
Wednesday, 28th July 2021, 7:44 am
A government chart  showing that the number of first doses administered in NI each day since the start of the year is tailing off
A government chart showing that the number of first doses administered in NI each day since the start of the year is tailing off

And one professional number-cruncher who has followed Covid-19 trends closely says that unless there is some major change soon, the Province’s vaccine programme may begin winding up.

The Northern Irish population aged 18-plus stands at roughly 1.4 million – and of those, about 83.7% have had their first vaccine, and 70.9% have had their second jab (according to calculations based on the NI Statistics and Research Agency’s figures).

Meanwhile, in the Republic of Ireland it is estimated there are roughly 3.8 million 18-plus residents.

Working on that basis, this would mean that about 83.5% of this population have had their first vaccine, and 63.7% have had their second dose (according to calculations based on data from Ireland’s Health Executive Service).

The situation is a far cry from the start of the year, when much was being made of Northern Ireland’s far superior rate of vaccination.

Data from the UK’s Office for National Statistics shows that the rate at which people have been getting first doses right across the UK in general has been slowing down for some time.

The number of first doses is particularly important, because it can be reasonably assumed that those who get a first dose eventually intend to end up with a second one too – as opposed to those who reject the vaccine entirely.

Peter Donaghy, an accountant and data analyst, told the News Letter that he believes the Republic has in fact already overtaken Northern Ireland in terms of the proportion of adults vaccinated – “and they’re still rising quite strongly”.

He added: “There was a really, really slow start in the Republic of Ireland but in February and March time it started to pick up. And in Northern Ireland we have had a really strong start which has started to tail off.

“It’s looking like the Republic of Ireland will be far ahead of Northern Ireland soon. They’re still doing 4-5% (of the population) per week of the adult population, which is crazy. I think, definitely, it has slowed to a crawl here.

“Of course things change and no one can predict these things with any degree of certainty but I will certainly be surprised if the Republic of Ireland don’t hit 90% of adults within the next few weeks.

“And, unless something really dramatic happens in Northern Ireland, we might not ever get that high. Unless there is a plan to start doing things a new way, it’s looking like we’re beginning to come to the end.

“It’s difficult to find something to point to which would explain why our uptake rates are lower.”

Yesterday, Health Minister Robin Swann confirmed the Moderna vaccine would be offered through community pharmacies.

This comes after plans for the regional mass vaccination centres to stop offering first doses after this month.

There has been a vocal minority of individuals across the UK who reject both the vaccine and social restrictions associated with slowing the virus.

For example, a parade of such people numbering in the hundreds was staged in Belfast city centre on Saturday, with the PSNI watching the illegal procession from the sidelines.

And in Dublin on the same day, an estimated 1,500 gathered for a similar rally, where an anti-vaccine protester told the crowd: “If people are coming to your door then you have to protect yourself from the needle because it’s coming and they are coming for your kids.

“You have to stand up because it’s war.

“They are coming to kill you and that’s the end of it.”

The speaker also claimed the vaccine programme was “genocide”.

Speaking yesterday, Mr Swann said such a protest “saddens me”.

He said some of those in attendence at the Belfast rally had been in touch with him to say they were “actually disgusted by some of the speakers ... if they knew what they were going to initially, they wouldn’t have been there”.

He condemned “the dangers their actions and langauge are [posing]”.

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