Belfast’s SSE Arena opens as mass vaccination centre
One of Northern Ireland’s largest live events arenas will open as a mass vaccination centre later.
The SSE Arena in Belfast will have the capacity to administer jabs to 40,000 people a week.
A slowdown in the UK’s vaccine supply lines will see the centre processing around 11,000 people a week initially, with the numbers ramping up as more AstraZeneca jabs become available.
The arena floor has the capacity for 60 separate vaccine stations.
It is operating as a mass vaccination site for the whole of Northern Ireland
Six regional centres will continue to administer vaccines, as will GP surgeries.
From Monday, more than 300 community pharmacies will also become involved in the vaccine rollout.
The SSE Arena is the home of the Belfast Giants ice hockey team, and prior to the pandemic was the region’s main venue for indoor concerts.
Its opening as a mass vaccine centre was originally expected to be accompanied by an expansion of the vaccination programme to take in the 40-49 age cohort.
That move has been delayed by a number of weeks due to the recent issues with the delivery of UK-wide orders of AstraZeneca jabs from overseas.
AstraZeneca and Pfizer jabs are currently being administered in Northern Ireland, with Moderna doses expected to be added to the rollout in the coming weeks.
As of Sunday, 850,041 vaccines had been administered in Northern Ireland – 726,589 of which were first doses and 123,452 were second doses.
The region is on course to offer first jabs to the entire adult population – 1.4 million – by July.