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.”
The roll-out of the Moderna vaccine came as the Health Minister said that rapid COVID-19 testing for those without symptoms would play a key role in helping NI tackle the pandemic.
The Health Minister was speaking as he paid a visit to the EH Allingham Construction site on the Crumlin Road, Belfast, one of the employer-led Assisted Testing Sites in operation in NI.
Praising the work of the EHA Group, the Minister said: “By participating in Rapid Testing, employers are protecting their workforces and their families; protecting customers, promoting consumer and supplier confidence; and helping to build economic recovery.
“To date, over 850 private sector businesses in NI have already contacted the Department of Health to register an interest in the programme. This is a positive step, but I would encourage more businesses to avail of the free Lateral Flow Tests and implement Rapid Testing in their workplace. We are extremely fortunate in Northern Ireland to be in a position to have access to a steady supply of effective rapid testing kits.”
The Minister added: “I would urge business leaders to make full use of this opportunity and use it as an additional tool to manage the virus in the workplace, and support their business recovery plans.
“I would like to commend the leadership and initiative shown by EHA Group in implementing an Assisted Testing Site for their employees.”
The site at EHA Group has been established as part of the NI SMART rapid testing expansion programme and provides testing for 250 staff working on site.
During his visit, the Minister was able to witness testing being undertaken with staff. The Minister had the opportunity to speak with staff about their thoughts on accessing rapid testing in the workplace.
Launched in March 2021, the NI SMART Testing Programme is currently rolling out free rapid testing across NI. The workforce testing programme has seen strong interest from businesses in the public, private and 3rd sector across Northern Ireland, with over 1,037 expressions of interest from organisations representing almost 129,827 employees.
In addition, small businesses or organisations with 10 or less employees have a number of options to access free rapid LFD tests. These include:
- Community based assisted testing site (ATS)
- Community based collection site
- Home delivery of tests
More information and how to apply for workplace testing is available on our website