Covid-19: Plans to vaccinate all over-65s by end of February

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The Department of Health has said it plans to vaccinate everyone aged over 65 in Northern Ireland by the end of February.

Both GP practices and regional vaccination centres will be used to vaccinate members of the public from prioritised groups.

People aged between 65 and 69 in NI are to be vaccinated at their local vaccination centre.

Until now only health care workers have been vaccinated at these locations.

As of Monday, 159,642 people in Northern Ireland had received a first coronavirus vaccine dose.

On Tuesday, the Department of Health daily figures reported an additional 16 Covid-19 related deaths and 550 new cases, bringing the total number of positive tests to 101,291.

Since Monday, there has been a reduction in the number of inpatients, patients receiving intensive care treatment, and the number of patients ventilated.

Within the next week, the role of the seven vaccination centres will be expanded to begin vaccinating members of the public.

GPs will vaccinate the over 70s in surgeries at the same time.

Those aged between 65 and 69 are to be vaccinated using the Pfizer vaccine as opposed to the Oxford Astra Zeneca vaccine.

The Department of Health say the change in plan is to ensure that a delivery of the Pfizer vaccine will not go to waste.

Health trusts will also begin to offer second doses to health and social care staff who had their first Pfizer doses before Christmas.

The move means those aged 65-69 will be vaccinated alongside those over 70, just using different locations.

There are concerns that the change in plan will cause confusion as some couples depending on their age will be attending different locations to be vaccinated and receiving different vaccines.

Dr Alan Stout of the BMA said that the priority must be getting people vaccinated as quickly as possible.

"We only heard about this move last week and it has only come about as there is more Pfizer vaccine available," he said.

"So while GPs will get on with vaccinating the over 70s in surgeries elsewhere on Trust sites, those aged 65-69 will be getting their vaccine as well."

He added: "It does enable more people to be vaccinated more quickly which is the overall priority.

"They are not jumping the queue they are being seen quicker than otherwise would have been intended but they are being vaccinated at the same time as the other cohorts. So just means more people being vaccinated and more quickly."

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As of Monday, 163,317 first doses of coronavirus vaccine had been given to people in Northern Ireland and 22,795 second doses had been given.

Overall 186,112 vaccines have been administered.

Some 46,355 people in the 80 plus age bracket have been vaccinated.

Republic of Ireland extends restrictions

In the Republic of Ireland the Taoiseach (Irish PM) Micheál Martin has confirmed that lockdown measures will continue until 5 March.

"We cannot give the virus or its variants any space," he said.

He added that the measures were being extended "with a view to crushing the numbers of those contracting the disease, and in turn the numbers needing hospitalisation and intensive care".

The taoiseach has said lockdown restrictions are having a positive impact, forcing case numbers down.

More than 3,000 people have now died with Covid-19 in the Republic.

The Irish Department of Health reported 90 more coronavirus-related deaths on Tuesday.

Eighty-nine of those deaths occurred in the month of January, the Health Protection Surveillance Centre said.

It brings the Republic's death toll to 3,066. The department also confirmed a further 928 new cases of Covid-19