Health Minister Robin Swann has welcomed an expansion of the community pharmacy Covid-19 vaccination service with the phased deployment of the Moderna vaccine.
The vaccine will be available to eligible individuals aged 18 years and over.
The roll out builds on the success of the existing COVID-19 vaccination service, which has now delivered over 115,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine from almost 350 community pharmacies across Northern Ireland.
The new service will initially offer the Moderna vaccine from 16 pharmacies with more pharmacies being added to the service on a rolling basis over the coming weeks.
Locations have been identified and selected on the basis of vaccine uptake data in order to help reach as many people as possible in areas of lower uptake and to make it easier than ever for people to get their vaccine and protect themselves and their loved ones.
Minister Swann said: “Community pharmacy teams across Northern Ireland have already risen to the challenge by delivering over 115,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine, while continuing to provide their vital services to people in their communities at a time of immense pressure across the health and social care system.
“As well as the continued availability of the AstraZeneca vaccine to individuals over 40, the additional availability of the Moderna vaccine to eligible individuals aged 18 years and over will also provide more locations where those people who haven’t yet come forward to receive their vaccine to do so now.
“While the logistical challenges with deployment of the Moderna vaccine are considerable, the number of participating pharmacies offering Moderna will continue to increase over the coming weeks and this will help many more people to come forward to access their vaccine in an easy and convenient location for them.”
Cathy Harrison, Chief Pharmaceutical Officer said: “Pharmacy teams across Northern Ireland should be very proud of the contribution they have made to the success of the COVID-19 vaccination programme. Their actions have undoubtedly saved lives.
“The deployment of the Moderna vaccine from an increasing number of community pharmacies over the coming weeks will play a vital part in our continued fight back against the virus.”
Joe Brogan, Head of Pharmacy and Medicines Management at the Health and Social Care Board said: “Community pharmacies are extremely accessible healthcare venues which have successfully demonstrated the delivery of flu vaccines and more recently COVID-19 vaccination.
“Rolling the Moderna vaccine out through selected pharmacies will, I hope, provide the opportunity for even greater uptake of these life-saving vaccines.”
Gerard Green, Chief Executive of Community Pharmacy Northern Ireland said: “We welcome the inclusion of Moderna to the COVID-19 vaccination programme, particularly for those in the under 40s age group. Community pharmacy is embedded in the heart of local communities, and this has been important in the vaccine roll out to date, providing patients with the option to receive their vaccine from a convenient and familiar health care professional, that they know and trust.
“As the Moderna vaccine is initially being rolled out to a limited number of pharmacies, I would ask the public to please be patient with community pharmacy teams as we continue to deliver pharmacy services and play our part in helping to protect the local population through the COVID-19 vaccination programme.”
The Minister added: “Cases have continued to rise over recent weeks and we are now also beginning to see the pressures mounting on our hospitals, with increasing demand for intensive care beds – albeit at a lower rate, thanks to the effectiveness of our vaccination programme.
"If we can make a concerted effort to increase vaccine uptake in the next week or so, this can help make a decisive difference, in terms of preventing serious illness and hospitalisations.
“If you haven’t yet received your first dose of the vaccine – don’t delay, act today.”