Covid Big Jab Weekend in Northern Ireland deemed a success, now vaccine focus on local venues

The next phase of Northern Ireland’s vaccination programme will have a sustained focus on pop-up walk-in clinics in high footfall locations, Stormont’s health minister has said.

Monday, 23rd August 2021, 8:15 am
Updated Monday, 23rd August 2021, 11:01 am

Robin Swann said there would be further initiatives in the drive to get more people vaccinated following the success of the Big Jab Weekend, which led to thousands of people receiving their first dose.

There were large queues at mass vaccination centres which offered the first jab to all adults as part of the drive over the weekend.

Mr Swann thanked everyone who had contributed to the success of the initiative.

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Long lines on Sunday forming outside a pop-up vaccine centre at The Quays shopping centre in Newry during the The Big Jab Weekend . Photo: Niall Carson/PA Wire

He said: “The vaccination drive will continue on a number of fronts.

“This next phase will include a sustained focus on localised pop-up walk-in clinics, both in high footfall locations and in areas where accessibility issues and other barriers may have impacted on take-up.

“The Big Jab Weekend has proven that there is still a strong demand for vaccination. Our aim will be to be bring forward a series of further opportunities at community level.”

Mr Swann added: “There will also be a big focus on further and higher education in September, as well as other take-up promotions.

Medical staff at a vaccine clinic at the SSE Arena, Belfast, during the The Big Jab Weekend, which has seen walk-in vaccination centres opening again in Northern Ireland for first doses for all adults . Photo: Niall Carson/PA Wire

“The number of participating pharmacies offering vaccination appointments will also be expanding.”

From today, vaccination opportunities will include:

An ongoing rolling programme of localised walk-in clinics continuing into September.

Vaccination by appointment at around 50 participating pharmacies.

The mass vaccination centres will be winding down their work in the coming weeks, as the buildings return to their normal roles. However, up until mid-September, they will continue to do walk-in second dose vaccinations and first doses for 16 and 17-year-olds.

The vaccination centre inside the SSE Arena Belfast closed yesterday. From tomorrow it will move outside the SSE Arena to the overflow car park, at the Water’s Edge, to continue delivering second dose vaccinations and first doses for 16 and 17-year-olds.

The health minister (pictured) added: “I want to pay tribute to everyone involved in our vaccination programme. It is a huge collective effort to bring protection against Covid-19 to as many people as possible.

“My thanks go to everyone who played a part in the Big Jab Weekend. That includes, of course, the vaccinator teams as well as all those who worked behind the scenes to organise and promote it. There was a major and concerted effort to publicise the promotion and it worked.

“I also want to highlight the support that was received right across society – including from sports bodies, businesses, education, the community and voluntary sector, local government, trade unions, and many other organisations.”

On Saturday, the Western Health Trust reported queues at three centres in its area, and said it had delivered more than 1,000 jabs by early afternoon.

The Belfast Trust said a “great start” had been recorded, with queues at Whitla Hall.

About 86% of the population in Northern Ireland have received their first dose of a vaccine, but concerns have been repeatedly expressed about a lower uptake among younger people.

Mr Swann said reaching another 5% could cut in half the number of people admitted to hospital with Covid.

The Department of Health said this weekend had been the last chance for anyone aged 18 and over to get their first jab at a mass vaccination centre, as they will so on be winding down.

They stopped offering first doses to the general population at the end of July, but resumed for this weekend.

• Morning View, page 16

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