Spring Covid booster for NI's most vulnerable
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The Public Health Agency (PHA) in Northern Ireland has launched a spring booster vaccine programme against Covid-19 for people most at risk of serious illness from the disease.
It is being offered to people over 75, care home residents and people with a weakened immune system.
From Wednesday, vaccines are being rolled out through GPs, community pharmacies and healthcare trusts.
The booster will help prolong previous vaccination protection, the PHA said.
"Covid-19 is more serious in older people and in people with certain underlying health conditions," PHA director Dr Joanne McClean said.
"I would urge everyone who falls into an eligible group to take up the offer of free vaccination when available."
The rollout follows advice from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), published in March.
The committee said that over the course of the pandemic data available from the UK and internationally showed older people were more likely to experience severe disease.
As a result, they would gain the most from protection from an additional vaccine dose this spring.
It is understood that about 190,000 people in Northern Ireland are eligible to receive the jab.
Most people in the eligible groups will receive invites for the booster through their GP.
People who are eligible for jabs should make sure appointments take place at least three months after their last dose.
Community pharmacies will be visiting care homes to vaccinate eligible residents.
Dr McClean said the PHA is encouraging everyone who falls into an eligible group to take up the offer of a booster.
"It will reduce the chance of you becoming severely unwell from Covid-19 this spring and summer," she said.
"Covid hasn't gone away, and could potentially result in a real health threat, particularly for vulnerable members of our community."