New advice which will see everyone aged 50 and over in Northern Ireland offered a Covid booster vaccine this autumn has been welcomed by Health Minister Robin Swann.
Mr Swann said planning for the new booster programme could now begin based on the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) guidance.
The new advice is aimed at boosting protection ahead of possible further waves of the virus.
Frontline health and social care workers and those aged five to 49 in a clinical risk group, including pregnant women, will also be eligible for the booster dose.
Mr Swann said delivering the vaccine programme would be a “major logistical operation” for the health service.
It comes as new statistics show more than 5% of people in Northern Ireland tested positive for Covid in early July.
An estimated 107,600, 5.86% of the population, tested positive for the virus in the week ending July 6, according to the Office for National Statistics.
Mr Swann said: “We can now step up our planning to deliver our autumn booster programme in Northern Ireland, based on this JCVI guidance.
“Vaccination provides vital protection against Covid-19, and has been particularly effective at reducing the risk of serious illness, hospitalisation and death.
“When we think back to where we were in 2020 before vaccines became available, we are reminded just how much we owe to all those who made our vaccine programme possible.
“Our vaccination programme in Northern Ireland has involved a huge collective effort right across health and social care.”
He added: “The JCVI advice for this autumn means boosters will be available to a large section of our population, who JCVI believe would benefit most from receiving a booster dose.
“Delivering this programme will be a major logistical operation for our health service but I am very confident we will rise to the challenge once again, despite all the pressures our service continues to face.
“Vaccination is our chief defence against Covid-19 and I would again urge everyone who is eligible for a booster as part of our autumn programme to come forward as soon as it becomes available.”
Under the advice from JCVI, those eligible for a further dose will be:
– Residents in a care home for older adults and staff working in care homes for older adults.
– Frontline health and social care workers.
– All adults aged 50 and over.
– Those aged five to 49 years in a clinical risk group, including pregnant women.
– Those aged five to 49 years who are household contacts of people with immunosuppression.
– Those aged 16 to 49 years who are carers.
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