Irish arms get first Covid jabs

Joanna Sloan being vaccinated at the Royal Victoria Hospital in Belfast on Tuesday morning


By Anthony Neeson

A 90-year-old woman from County Fermanagh is the first woman in the world to receive the Covid-19 vaccination outside trial conditions.

Margaret Keenan, who turns 91 next week, received the Pfizer jab at University Hospital in Coventry, England, on Tuesday morning, December 8.

Later that morning, in Belfast, the first person in Ireland to receive the vaccine was nursing Sister Joanna Sloan from County Down. She was vaccinated at the Royal Victoria Hospital and will now head up the vaccine rollout at the Belfast Health Trust.

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As vaccinations get underway, 25,000 doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine have arrived in Northern Ireland. Last week, the UK government became the first government to give the green light for the vaccine.

North Health Minister Robin Swann welcomed the initial consignment which arrived at the end of last week.

“We have been anticipating this news for many months and it is hugely welcome to receive the first batch of the vaccine today,” he said on Friday.

“I have been clear that we still have a long journey ahead of us but we can be optimistic.”

Swann said that following the authorization of the Pfizer and BioNTech vaccine “we have been able to move swiftly to co-ordinate the arrival of the first consignment and will now be able to commence the planned roll-out from early next week."

“Vaccinators will be the first to receive the vaccine, followed swiftly by priority groups. We are being guided on prioritization by the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunization. It has identified care home residents and staff and health and social care workers as priority groups. Further details on prioritization should be confirmed by next week.

“There are significant logistical challenges with distributing the vaccine to care homes. The Department of Health is actively exploring all avenues to achieve this priority objective, within the conditions on distribution set by the regulating body MHRA.”

The Health Minister said vaccination will be a massive, long-term, logistical challenge.

“Our rate of progress will depend on available supplies that will be distributed as part of a UK-wide program. Everyone will require two doses, with a number of weeks in between. Roll-out will take up a large part of 2021, so we will all need to be patient as we await our turn.”

It is anticipated that vaccine roll-out in the Republic will begin in January.