Photo caption – Mr Jim Barr, Galgorm Care Home Ballymena received his vaccine recently
Over 453 care homes across Northern Ireland have now received both COVID-19 vaccinations – this includes staff as well as residents who agreed to receive the vaccine.
Northern Ireland was one of the first regions in UK and Ireland to roll out a vaccination programme to care homes. To date, 100% of care homes were visited and have been offered the first dose of the vaccine – 90% of care homes have been visited and offered the second dose, with work ongoing to complete the remainder as planned.
This has been made possible through the close collaboration between the five Health and Social Care Trusts and care home management and staff, with regional support from the Public Health Agency (PHA).
Deirdre Webb, Assistant Director of Nursing at the PHA, was tasked by the Department of Health to assist with the implementation of the vaccination programme over the past eight weeks to care homes.
Deirdre said: “The success of the vaccination rollout to care homes would not have been achieved without an incredible team effort, with people working together and collaboratively across the sector. Everyone involved was committed to getting our older care home population and staff vaccinated as quickly as possible, as the care home sector has been so greatly affected by COVID-19. Staff were highly motivated from all sides to make the rollout work effectively among this vulnerable group.
She added: “There are still some small pieces of work to do with those who didn’t get vaccinated at the time of our visits, as they may have been ill or may have just moved into their care home, and to complete the round of second doses, but the bulk of the work is now complete.
“This work was done at great pace over the Christmas period and into the New Year, including during the surge in COVID-19 cases during this time, so it is a phenomenal achievement for all involved that we have been able to offer protection to quickly to some of our most vulnerable citizens.”
Despite the vaccination roll out in care homes, and also to key groups in the wider population, the PHA is urging everyone to continue to follow public health guidance – maintain social distancing, wear and face covering, and wash your hands regularly. While vaccines offer excellent protection, there is still a chance that a vaccinated person could contract COVID-19. It is also possible that a vaccinated person, while protected themselves, may still pass the virus on to someone who has yet to get the jab.