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The Chief Medical Officer (CMO), Dr Michael McBride and Chief Nursing Officer (CNO), Charlotte McArdle, have written to all of the province’s healthcare professionals asking for expressions of interest to become sessional vaccinators to help implement the forthcoming COVID-19 vaccination programme. 

‘You will,’ the CMO and CNO said in their joint letter, ‘have seen the news recently, which indicated that one of the COVID-19 vaccines, which is due to be used in a forthcoming vaccination programme, was shown to be 90 per cent effective with no safety concerns. While this is very welcome news, it should be noted that the vaccine still has to be considered and approved by the MHRA.  

‘It is therefore very possible that a COVID-19 vaccine(s) will become available for use across the UK by early December. Plans have been drawn up to ensure a vaccination programme can be implemented quickly once sufficient supplies of the vaccine(s) have been received into Northern Ireland.  

‘The vaccination programme will involve a mixture of delivery models and these will include: mobile teams for care home residents and staff as well as support for district nursing for house bound patients; Enhanced Trust Occupational Health staff teams for the mass vaccination of staff; and a GP-based programme, which will see GPs operating in cluster formation vaccination sites with additional support. 

‘In order to be able to implement these plans, it is essential that we have adequate vaccinators, who can be trained up and called upon when required, as well as healthcare assistants and admin staff to support the programme.’  

While welcoming the letter, Community Pharmacy Northern Ireland acknowledged that it would be difficult for pharmacy to take part in a vaccination programme using the Pfizer vaccine due to the storage issues. (The Pfizer vaccine has to be stored at around -70°C). 

‘CPNI continues to engage with Department and HSCB colleagues on COVID-19 vaccination,’ said Dr Vanessa Chambers, Head of Policy & Development at CPNI,and we are considering the potential role for community pharmacy as part of the wider vaccination programme, noting the significant logistical challenges with some of the vaccine candidates that mean initial efforts are mainly focused on mass vaccination centres at present.’  

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