A small number of community pharmacies in Northern Ireland will begin delivering the Moderna vaccine in the coming days, the health minister has announced. 

Just 16 pharmacies will deliver the Moderna vaccine at first, before additional pharmacies are added to the service on a rolling basis over the coming weeks. 

The vaccine will be available to eligible patients aged 18 years and over. 

Almost 350 community pharmacies across Northern Ireland began delivering the AstraZeneca vaccine after the sector began administering the vaccines back in March.  

Collectively, the sector has administered over 115,000 doses of the jab. 

The 16 pharmacies have been selected based on vaccine uptake data to help reach as many patients as possible in areas of lower uptake.  

These select community pharmacies in Northern Ireland will be the first pharmacies in the UK to deliver the Moderna vaccine. 

Last winter community pharmacies in Northern Ireland were commissioned to provide the flu vaccination service for the first time, after a successful pilot was launched earlier in the year. 

Announcing the development, health minister Robin Swann said: ‘As well as the continued availability of the AstraZeneca vaccine to individuals over 40, the additional availability of the Moderna vaccine to eligible individuals aged 18 years and over will also provide more locations where those people who haven’t yet come forward to receive their vaccine to do so now. 

‘While the logistical challenges with the deployment of the Moderna vaccine are considerable, the number of participating pharmacies offering Moderna will continue to increase over the coming weeks and this will help many more people to come forward to access their vaccine in an easy and convenient location for them.’ 

According to Moderna, the vaccine remains stable between two and eight degrees celsius — the temperature of a standard medical refrigerator — for up to 30 days.

Cathy Harrison, the chief pharmaceutical officer added: ‘Pharmacy teams across Northern Ireland should be very proud of the contribution they have made to the success of the Covid-19 vaccination programme. Their actions have undoubtedly saved lives. 

‘The deployment of the Moderna vaccine from an increasing number of community pharmacies over the coming weeks will play a vital part in our continued fight back against the virus.’