Robin Swann has confirmed that the first batch of the Pfizer/BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine has arrived into Northern Ireland.
The initial consignment of almost 25,000 doses paves the way for vaccinations to commence from early next week, starting with vaccinator teams.
Welcoming the arrival, the Health Minister said: “We have been anticipating this news for many months and it is hugely welcome to receive the first batch of the vaccine today. I have been clear that we still have a long journey ahead of us but we can be optimistic.
“Following authorisation of the Pfizer and BioNTech vaccine by MHRA on Wednesday, we have been able to move swiftly to co-ordinate the arrival of the first consignment and will now be able to commence the planned roll-out from early next week.
“Vaccinators will be the first to receive the vaccine, followed swiftly by priority groups. We are being guided on prioritisation by the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation. It has identified care home residents and staff and health and social care workers as priority groups. Further details on prioritisation should be confirmed by next week.
“There are significant logistical challenges with distributing the vaccine to care homes. The Department of Health is actively exploring all avenues to achieve this priority objective, within the conditions on distribution set by the regulating body MHRA.”
The Health Minister added: “Vaccination will be a massive long-term logistical challenge. Our rate of progress will depend on available supplies that will be distributed as part of a UK-wide programme. Everyone will require two doses, with a number of weeks in between. Roll-out will take up a large part of 2021 so we will all need to be patient as we await our turn.”