Pensioner relieved after receiving Oxford jab
A pensioner who survived the Second World War Blitz expressed relief after receiving the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine.
Everyone aged over 80 will be inoculated in Northern Ireland within a few short weeks, health officials said, in a “step change” in the race against time to deliver immunity.
West Belfast GP Michael McKenna administered the first coronavirus jabs, releasing older people from the “jail” sentence they have been under while shielding for the last nine months.
Afterwards, white-bearded John Grey, 84, leaned on his walking stick and said: “I am relieved, let’s say that.”
Up to 11,000 people aged over 80 are set to receive the jab this week as the health service struggles with soaring number of hospital admissions.
Mr Grey stood outside the doctors’ surgery on a busy Falls Road wrapped up warm in a leather jacket against the winter chill while clutching a face covering in his free hand.
His partner is a little younger than him and will have to wait a bit longer.
He said: “Other than that I am very happy to be here.”
He has been through adversity before – including the Second World War Blitz.
“I was not terrified of it, let’s put it like that.
“You just accept that there is a risk.”
A batch of 50,000 of the Oxford doses has been allocated to Northern Ireland.
Around 40,000 people have been vaccinated for coronavirus already and there are now two inoculations authorised.
AstraZeneca’s is easier to store and distribute than the one produced by Pfizer because it can be kept at normal fridge temperature.
It is also cheaper.
Seven health trust-based centres have been opened in Northern Ireland and local government premises have been used.
More than 40 GP practices are available to deliver the jab from Monday with many, many more to come online, the country’s chief medical officer Dr Michael McBride said.
He declared: “It is a step change in terms of the vaccine programme, because this is (a programme) that will allow us to get the vaccine out to people through general practices and what we now need to do is continue to vaccinate those most vulnerable and at risk as safely and quickly as we possibly can.
“It most certainly is a game changer.
“It is what we have been waiting for.”
He added: “Within a few short weeks we will have everyone aged over 80 vaccinated.”
Dr McKenna administered some of the first Oxford vaccinations and has a full clinic booked for Tuesday.
He said: “They see the importance themselves of getting the vaccine because hopefully that will unlock the jail that they have essentially been in for the last nine months.
“This marks a hugely important moment for all practices and hopefully we look forward to moving back towards a sense of normality towards the summer time.”
Another 1,801 people have tested positive, the Department of Health said on Monday.
That makes 12,507 diagnoses over the last seven days.
Another 12 deaths have been reported.