Mr Patsy McGlone (Mid Ulster): To ask the Minister of Health what consideration has been given to the provision of COVID-19 vaccinations to the volunteer search and rescue sector.
Minister of Health: Vaccination policy in Northern Ireland is based on the recommendations and advice provided by the independent Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) which advises the 4 UK Health Ministers.
JCVI has advised that the first priorities for the COVID-19 vaccination programme should be the prevention of mortality and the maintenance of the health and social care systems. As the risk of mortality from COVID-19 increases with age, prioritisation is primarily based on age.
The vaccine was initially targeted at those considered most at risk or HSCWs working closely with those considered most at risk. Since that initial phase the programme has moved on to other priority groups at 3- 5 in the vaccination programme.
Many groups and professions have been in touch requesting that the vaccination programme is extended to them. At this stage, due to vaccine availability we have to stick closely to the priority groups as recommended by JCVI but as the programme continues to be rolled out there may be scope to widen it to others. Ultimately it is expected that most adults over the age of 18 will be offered the vaccine in due course and we hope to complete the COVID-19 Vaccination Programme as quickly as possible.