The Covid vaccine booster programme in Northern Ireland will be delivered mostly through community pharmacies and GP surgeries, the Department of Health (DH) has announced.
It comes a week after the health minister, Robin Swann, said community pharmacies would now be taking the ‘lead role’ in administering first doses of Covid vaccine across Northern Ireland.
The booster programme is currently underway in care homes and hospitals, with pharmacies due to begin vaccinating ‘imminently,’ a DH spokesperson told The Pharmacist.
Community pharmacies will initially be vaccinating non-trust employed frontline health care staff before moving on to the general public, the vaccination plan published on the DH website yesterday (12 October) said.
In line with the advice from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI)
, and the programme in England, everyone aged 50 and over will be eligible for a booster jab six months after their second Covid vaccine dose.
Eligibility for the booster dose will also cover those aged 16 to 49 years with underlying health conditions that put them at higher risk of severe Covid-19, adult carers and household contacts of immunosuppressed individuals.
The booster programme will happen alongside the winter flu programme, which is primarily taking place in GP surgeries this year.
However, as part of the expanded flu service, community pharmacies will also be able to offer the vaccination to health and social care workers and all those aged 50 and over.
Commenting on the new expansion, Gerard Greene, chief executive of community pharmacy NI, said: ‘Community pharmacies across Northern Ireland welcome the expansion of the community pharmacy flu vaccination service, it gives the public the option of getting their flu vaccine at a convenient, accessible location with a local pharmacist they know and trust.’
GPs will be able to offer both the Covid booster vaccine and flu jab at the same time.
As it stands, just over 360 community pharmacies across Northern Ireland began delivering the AstraZeneca vaccine after the sector began administering the vaccines back in March, with over 130 also providing the Moderna vaccine.
As of 7 October, the sector had administered over 143,000 doses of the jab.