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Get jabbed and support the health service – Chief Medical Officer

Chief Medical Officer, Professor Sir Michael McBride recieving his vaccination.

Chief Medical Officer Professor Sir Michael McBride has urged people to support the health service this winter by getting vaccinated to help protect themselves and reduce their chances of ending up in hospital.

The vaccination programme for COVID-19 and flu is being rolled out by Health and Social Care Trusts, GPs and community pharmacies across Northern Ireland.

Those most vulnerable to serious illness if infected with COVID-19 or flu, including care home residents, were among the first to receive the vaccines, and jabs are now being offered more widely. In addition, schools are delivering flu jabs to all primary and secondary school children up to Year 12.

Professor Sir Michael McBride said:

“Although we’ve been experiencing mild weather recently, our Health and Social Care services have been under extreme stress and are likely to remain so for a considerable period. With winter fast approaching, those pressures are likely to worsen with COVID-19 cases expected to rise, alongside increased levels of flu and other respiratory infections.

“Flu activity levels have been extremely low globally the last two winters, mainly due to COVID-19 prevention measures. As a result, we’re facing a lower level of population immunity against flu this year. This could result in a real health threat, particularly for vulnerable members of our community, and further pressures on our health services and staff.

“The vaccines available help to prolong protection already received from initial COVID-19 vaccinations, while the flu vaccine is needed every year as the antibodies that protect you from flu decline over time, and flu strains change from year to year.

“The message is clear – if you’re eligible for either the flu vaccine, COVID-19 vaccine or both, please take up the offer.”

Flu and COVID-19 vaccines are being offered free of charge to more than one million people in Northern Ireland this year.

Those eligible for the COVID-19 booster will largely be offered a booster dose of either the Comirnaty bivalent (Pfizer/BioNTech) vaccine or Spikevax bivalent (Moderna) vaccine. Both vaccines are safe, effective and provide high levels of protection.

The Chief Medical officer added:

“A small number of people may be offered one of the original COVID-19 vaccines as their booster. This vaccine will also provide significant protection. The advice remains that the best vaccine to get is the one that is available and offered to you.

“Many people will be offered the flu jab and COVID-19 booster vaccine at the same appointment. It is safe and effective to receive them in this way and ensures you are better protected against both diseases.”

Eligible groups for flu vaccine in 2022 to 2023 are:

  • Those aged 50 years and over (by 31 March 2023)

  • Those aged 6 months to 2 years, and 16 to 49 years in clinical risk groups

  • Pregnant women

  • All preschool children aged 2 or over on 1 September 2022

  • All primary and secondary (up to year 12) school children

  • Those in long-stay residential care homes

  • Carers

  • Household contact of immunosuppressed individuals

  • Frontline health and social care workers.

Eligible groups for COVID-19 vaccine in 2022 to 2023 are:

  • All adults aged 50 and over (by 31 March 2023)

  • Those aged 5 to 49 years in a clinical risk group

  • Pregnant women

  • Residents in a care home for older adults, and staff working in care homes for older adults

  • Those aged 5 to 49 years who are household contacts of people with immunosuppression

  • Those aged 16 to 49 years who are carers

  • Frontline health and social care workers.

COVID-19 first, second and booster doses are still available to those who have not yet taken up the offer of vaccination

For further information please see the NI Direct website


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