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Chief Medical Officer everyone to come forward for vaccination when their turn comes

Statement by Chief Medical Officer, Dr Michael McBride

“I would strongly encourage everyone in Northern Ireland to come forward for their COVID-19 vaccination when their turn comes.

“The expert, independent advice is clear – the benefits of the AstraZeneca vaccine far outweigh any potential risk for the vast majority of adults. The potential risk from this rare blood clotting condition is extremely low – and a definite link to vaccination has not yet been established.

“The risk/benefit calculation is different for those under 30, due to the reduced threat posed to this age group by COVID and the availability of other vaccines.

“For the rest of us, it is essential to understand that COVID-19 represents a much greater risk. COVID-19 has claimed many lives in Northern Ireland and left many others with debilitating long-term health issues. It is also the case that COVID infection itself brings an increased risk of blood clots.

“It is thanks in no small measure to the AstraZeneca vaccine that Northern Ireland is in a much better position than it was at the start of the year. It will continue to have a vital role in saving lives, reducing hospitalisations and helping us move out of lockdown.

“Like hundreds of thousands of other people in Northern Ireland, I was very pleased and relieved to receive my first AstraZeneca dose. I am looking forward to receiving my second AZ jab when my turn comes.

“We all want to live without a constant dread of COVID and to get our old lives back. Vaccination has an essential role in ensuring we have a better and safer summer.”

• The MHRA (Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency) and the JCVI (Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation) advise that people aged 30 plus should receive any of the available COVID-19 vaccines. The benefits of vaccination in protecting you against the serious consequences of COVID-19 outweigh any potential risk.

• In line with MHRA and JCVI advice, the AstraZeneca vaccine will also continue to be made available to adults of all ages who have underlying health conditions which put them at higher risk of serious illness or death from COVID-19.

• Those aged 18-29 who do not have an underlying medical condition will be offered an alternative vaccine when this is available.

• Whatever your age, if your first dose was with AZ vaccine, you should have the second dose of the same vaccine when your turn comes. Having the second dose will give you higher and longer lasting protection from COVID-19. The only exception is for the very small number of people who experienced blood clots with low platelet counts following their first dose.