Covid-19: Belfasts SSE Arena to be mass vaccination centre

Covid-19: Belfasts SSE Arena to be mass vaccination centre

Belfast’s SSE Arena will be used as a mass vaccination centre for Northern Ireland’s adult population, Health Minister Robin Swann has confirmed.

It is expected the arena will open in April as a facility for those 60 and under who have not already been vaccinated.

Regional centres and GP clinics will still offer vaccines.

The Department of Health said access would then open further with community pharmacies offering the service.

The car park of the SSE Arena is already being used as a drive-through Covid-19 test centre.

Mr Swann said it was “yet another significant step forward” in the vaccination roll out.

“The programme is continuing at pace and we are likely to being vaccinating priority group seven, followed quickly by all other priority groups starting in early April,” he said.

“This will see everyone 60 and under being offered the vaccine – a monumental next step in a population-wide vaccination programme.”

On Sunday, the Department of Health said Northern Ireland’s vaccination programme had been “making good progress and is ahead of schedule”.

It came after Prime Minister Boris Johnson said all UK adults should be offered a first dose of the vaccine by the end of July, compared to a previous target in September.

Under the accelerated vaccination target announced by Prime Minister Boris Johnson, all UK adults aged 50 and over would be offered their first vaccination by 15 April.

In addition, all UK adults at higher risk due to underlying health conditions would also be given the option of receiving a first jab by the same date.

The UK’s devolved nations each have the power to set their own coronavirus regulations and have different lockdown rules and vaccination programmes.

Slightly more than 23% of NI’s population have received their first dose of vaccine, which is slightly behind Wales (26.8%), Scotland (25.7%) and England (25.4%).

On Friday, Mr Swann announced that all carers over the age of 18 could now book a Covid-19 vaccine at a vaccination centre.

“There are many elderly or disabled people who rely on carers to look after them and their welfare would be a risk if their carer took ill,” he said.

“We must continue to protect the most vulnerable from the effects of Covid. That includes doing the right thing and waiting your turn.”

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