The Chair of the British Medical Council’s GP Committee in Northern Ireland has said he believes all people over 50 will be vaccinated by late April, as he described the vaccination programme in the North as a “great success to date”.
There have been more than 500,000 vaccine doses administered in Northern Ireland.
The Northern Ireland Department of Health confirmed 478,235 are first doses, meaning a third of Northern Ireland’s adult population has had at least their first jab.
Dr Tom Black, also a GP in Derry, told the News at One there are seven mass vaccination centres administering the Pfizer vaccine, with 330 GP practices administering the AstraZeneca vaccine.
He said they are currently at group six in their nine-group prioritisation list.
He said everyone over 65, healthcare workers, nursing homes residents and staff and most of the clinically vulnerable have now been vaccinated, and they are working their way through carers at the moment.
He said the next group to be taken will be those aged 60-65.
Dr Black said there has been little to no vaccine hesitancy, citing a 99% uptake in the over 80s.
“It was like a party. They were coming in so excited and really having such fun.”
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He said uptake has been 90-95% in younger age group which he described as “good coverage” and “more than the 70-80% that we need for herd immunity”.
Dr Black said Northern Ireland is expecting a greater quantity of AstraZeneca to be delivered next week.
“Once we get past the point where everybody over 50, plus the clinically vulnerable group have been vaccinated, you’re pretty much deal with 95% of the deaths that happened last year so once you get everybody over 50, you have the broken the back of this pandemic.”
He said he believes people over 50 will have been vaccinated by the third week in April.
Dr Black said GPs are seeing a decrease in the number of people presenting with Covid-19 infection but hospitals remain busy.
He said this week saw the start of second doses being given to healthcare workers.
He said nursing home patients and staff got their second dose at three weeks while everyone else waits 10-12 weeks for their second doses.
A milestone was reached today with an announcement that residents of all 483 care homes in Northern Ireland have now received a vaccine.
The news was announced to Queen Elizabeth by Northern Ireland’s deputy chief medical officer Dr Naresh Chada during a Zoom briefing about the impact of the pandemic.
Meanwhile, a further two Coronavirus deaths have been recorded in Northern Ireland, taking the official Department of Health toll to 2,050.
There are 241 new cases from tests on 2,174 individuals.
There are confirmed 335 coronavirus patients in hospitals, with 36 in ICU, 29 of whom are on ventilators.
The average seven- day incidence rate per 100,000 for Northern Ireland is 95.5.
The council area with the highest rate remains Mid Ulster on 136.3, while the lowest remains Fermanagh and Omagh on 39.4.
Additional reporting Vincent Kearney