First to receive jab in NI lauds ‘huge’ moment in pandemic battle

The first person to receive the Covid-19 vaccine in Northern Ireland has said it felt like a “huge moment” in the battle against the pandemic.

Joanna Sloan, 28, is sister in charge of the team of vaccinators for the Belfast Health and Social Care Trust, Northern Ireland’s largest.

She received the jab at the Royal Victoria Hospital in West Belfast shortly after 8am on Tuesday morning, and said it felt like she had cleared the final hurdle.

The nurse, from Dundrum in Co Down, said: “I feel privileged and honoured and a little bit emotional that we have got here – very, very grateful.”

She felt “apprehensive and nervous” beforehand.

As the vaccine was administered, she said she was thinking: “At last – we are here.”

Ms Sloan added: “Through everything that healthcare workers (went through), either in hospital or (the) community – people themselves losing family members, us losing colleagues – it felt like it was a huge moment and that this was and could possibly be the final hurdle in the fight against Covid.”

Joanna Sloan
Ms Sloan is given the vaccine (Liam McBurney/PA)

She is a former emergency department nurse and has been in her job for six years.

The nurse is engaged, but her wedding was postponed due to the pandemic.

Ms Sloan has a daughter aged five.

Afterwards, she said of the jab: “It did not feel any different than any other immunisation that I have had, I did not feel any pain.”

She said it had been stressful and hard work preparing for the moment.

Joanna Sloane, Sister in the Royal Victoria Hospital Emergency Department becomes the first person to receive the COVID-19 vaccination in Northern Ireland. pic.twitter.com/QuxstKqS0p

— Belfast Trust (@BelfastTrust) December 8, 2020

“We worked tirelessly to make sure that people are safe.”

Northern Ireland’s chief medical officer, Dr Michael McBride, said it was a remarkable day.

“We can begin to look to the future with a degree of optimism, with this vaccine and other vaccines and more effective treatments,” he said.

“Hopefully in the future Covid-19 will become a more manageable disease and we will begin the pathway to a more normal life.”

Dr McBride added that he did not think this day would come so soon, 10 months after Covid-19 was discovered, as opposed to the more normal 10 years taken to develop vaccines.

He recalled the sacrifices and harm caused by the virus as well as the number of lives lost, and warned there will be more challenging months ahead.

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