First NI vaccine recipient will get jab on Tuesday morning at Royal Victoria Hospital

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Royal Victoria Hospital

By David Young, PA

The first recipient of the coronavirus vaccine in Northern Ireland will get the jab on Tuesday morning.

The Pfizer/BioNTech dose will be administered at 8am at a mass vaccination centre at the Royal Victoria Hospital, the PA news agency understands.

The recipient will be one of an 800-plus team of vaccinators that will be involved in the subsequent roll-out programme.

Stocks of coronavirus vaccine arrived in Northern Ireland on Friday.

They were transported via the Irish Republic having arrived into Dublin port from Holyhead overnight.

There are 25,000 doses in the initial batch of the vaccine.

The stocks have been taken to a central storage facility operated by a private company. The location is not being disclosed.

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.

Health Minister Robin Swann speaking to Q Radio

“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 deaths of another six people with Covid-19 were announced by the Department of Health on Friday, along with 449 new confirmed cases of the virus.

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.

Robin Swann outside the Ulster Hospital earlier this week

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.

Mr Swann added: “Vaccination will be a massive long-term logistical challenge.

“Our rate of progress will depend on available supplies that will be distributed as part of a UK-wide programme.

“Everyone will require two doses, with a number of weeks in between. Roll-out will take up a large part of 2021 so we will all need to be patient as we await our turn.”

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