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Health Minister Robin Swann has welcomed plans to transform TEC Belfast in the historic Titanic Quarter into Northern Ireland’s latest mass vaccination centre.

The new large-scale facility will offer walk-in and appointment options for boosters and first and second doses of Pfizer. Not to be confused with the nearby Titanic Belfast visitor attraction, the TEC normally hosts large-scale events such as trade shows.

It will open its doors as a new vaccination centre early next week, as part of the concerted drive to protect the population from the expected COVID-19 Omicron variant surge. It has been secured for the vaccination programme in a landmark agreement between the South Eastern Health Trust and TBL International.

Latest developments in the big booster push also include:

* People aged 18-29 will be able to get boosters at Health Trust vaccination centres from Monday. As with other age groups, they will only be eligible for boosters if it has been three months or more since their second dose.

* Booster jabs for 18-29 year olds will only be available on a walk-in basis initially, but they will be able to book jab appointments at the Trust centres from later next week.

* The majority of GPs are also extending to the 18-29 age group, and community pharmacies are doing the same.

* Work continues to further extend the booster programme capacity with additional vaccination sites being finalised. Mass vaccination centres are being reactivated by Trusts. The Western Trust mass vaccination centre at Foyle Arena in Derry/Londonderry is back up and running and the Southern Trust is reopening its centre at South Lake Leisure Centre, Craigavon tomorrow (Friday). The latest details of all the Trust vaccination locations and opening times are available on Trust websites. The NI Direct website also has detailed information on the vaccination programme.

* The requirement for a 15 minute wait after vaccination has been temporarily stood down, a move which will help reduce waiting times at all vaccination locations.

The Health Minister visited the TEC Belfast site today. He said: “I am truly humbled by the massive efforts being made by our exhausted  health service to further accelerate the booster programme.

“I again appeal to everyone who is eligible to come forward now for their booster doses. Likewise, to those who are still unvaccinated, I say please get jabbed without delay. The emerging data on the Omicron variant is deeply concerning and we must do all we can to protect each other and our health service.

“The vaccination centres will obviously be busy next week with the additional age group, so I would encourage anyone aged 30 and over to get their booster this weekend if at all possible.”

South Eastern Trust Chief Executive Roisin Coulter said: “Following on from the success of the mass vaccination centre at the SSE Arena in Belfast, the Trust is delighted to once again be able to support all of the efforts which are being made across the entire health service to protect the community from the expected surge of the Omicron variant.

“We are already in the process of rapidly standing up a mass vaccination centre at the TEC where we will deliver up to 4,000 vaccines every day. This is a mammoth task in a very short space of time but our incredible staff are rising to the challenge. The doors will open to the public early next week.”

Judith Owens, CEO of TBL International, said: “We are delighted that TEC Belfast is able to play its part in helping the South Eastern Trust with the delivery of the vaccine rollout, aiding their critical response to this public health emergency. With the postponement of so many large scale exhibitions, it is wonderful that the venue has been repurposed for use as a vaccination centre, helping us on the road to recovery and providing so many with the best possible defence against Covid-19 as we approach the festive season.”

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