Stocks of Pfizer vaccine arrive in Northern Ireland

The vaccine doses were transported into the region overnight.

Coronavirus – Wed Dec 2, 2020
Coronavirus – Wed Dec 2, 2020

Stocks of coronavirus vaccine have arrived in Northern Ireland ahead of the rollout of the jabs next week.

The initial batch of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine were transported overnight from England.

It has been taken to a central storage facility, the location of which is not being disclosed.

The delivery means Northern Ireland remains on track to start administering the vaccine to healthcare workers next week.

Coronavirus – Wed Dec 2, 2020
Robin Swann visiting a mass vaccination facility at the Ulster Hospital (Presseye/PA)

Health Minister Robin Swann said: “We have been anticipating this news for many months and it is hugely welcome to receive the first batch of the vaccine today. I have been clear that we still have a long journey ahead of us but we can be optimistic.

“Following authorisation of the Pfizer and BioNTech vaccine by MHRA (Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency) on Wednesday, we have been able to move swiftly to co-ordinate the arrival of the first consignment and will now be able to commence the planned roll-out from early next week.”

The 800-plus team of vaccinators will be the first to receive the jabs.

Healthcare workers across the region will be able to get the vaccine through the remainder of December at seven centres spread across the region.

Two of the facilities are located on hospital grounds – at the Ulster Hospital in Dundonald and Belfast’s Royal Victoria Hospital – and the rest in leisure centres.

The centres will operate 12 hours a day and seven days a week in an effort to vaccinate 100,000 healthcare and care home staff. Care home residents and people aged over 80 are also in the first priority vaccination group.

Health officials continue to examine ways to administer the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine in care homes in Northern Ireland.

The size of batches and the extremely low temperature at which it must be stored poses logistical challenges with using the vaccine outside the major centres.

The majority of care home residents may ultimately receive another brand of vaccine, with health chiefs hopeful that regulatory approval for the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine could be only a matter of days away.

That product does not come with the same storage and batch size constraints.

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