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A new Community pharmacy vaccine service has been launched today, although it may take a while to be available in all of the local participating outlets.

In Newry City these are: Gordons Chemist, Sugar Island; McNally's, Monaghan St; McKeever's, Monaghan St; McKeever's, Marcus Square; McKeever's, Mill St; Boots, John Mitchel Place; McKeagney's, John Mitchel Place; The Medical Hall, The Quays and McCartan's, Fiveways.

Outside Newry you can go to Camlough Pharmacy, Meigh Pharmacy, Gordons and Walshe's Pharmacies, Warrenpoint; McKeever's, Rostrevor; Cullyhanna Pharmacy, Boots, Markethill; Northern Pharmacies, Poyntzpass; Mayobridge Pharmacy, Whinbush, Hilltown and Gordon's, Rathfriland.

Many local pharmacies will be providing a vaccination service. Photograph: Columba O'Hare/ Newry.ie
Many local pharmacies will be providing a vaccination service. Photograph: Columba O'Hare/ Newry.ie

Speaking on the launch Health Minister Robin Swann said: “This is a significant day in our vaccination journey and I am delighted to formally launch this new Covid-19 vaccination service in community pharmacies across Northern Ireland.”

The new service means eligible members of the public will be able to avail of the vaccine at a location more local to them. At present this applies to those aged 50 years and over. This latest development follows the official opening of the Covid-19 vaccination centre at the SSE arena in Belfast earlier today.

As with previous phases of the vaccination programme, it is anticipated that demand for the community pharmacy Covid-19 vaccine service will be high and members of the public are asked to remain patient. Information on how to book a vaccination appointment at a pharmacy is published here: COVID-19 NI VACCINATION

Minister Swann said: “Community pharmacy teams have remained dedicated to providing the public with vital health care and support through what have been very challenging times. Pharmacists have a wealth of expertise, skills and experience which makes them very well-placed for delivering the Covid-19 vaccine. The addition of this new service will help speed up the roll-out of the existing programme by increasing capacity and local accessibility to vaccines for the general population, particularly for those who may find it more difficult to travel to one of the mass vaccination centres.”

After receiving her vaccine at the pharmacy, Chief Pharmaceutical Officer Cathy Harrison said: “Community pharmacies have played a vital role throughout the pandemic and will continue to do so as they join the vaccination roll-out programme. Over the course of the past year, the general public has come to rely on community pharmacists more than ever before due to their accessibility and the addition of this new service will greatly benefit the people of Northern Ireland. 

“Given the high demand for vaccines we anticipate that community pharmacies will be a popular option for those who are eligible so please be patient with pharmacy teams.”  

Joe Brogan, Head of Pharmacy and Medicines Management at the Health and Social Care Board said: “The COVID vaccination campaign is one of the ways that we as a society will move forward. It is vital that our population has every opportunity to access this service and it’s fantastic to have almost 350 additional locations where people can book an appointment for a vaccine at a time and a place that suits them.

“I wish to recognise the tremendous response of community pharmacy teams in supporting the response to COVID and support our pathway out of the pandemic.”

Gerard Greene, Chief Executive of Community Pharmacy NI said: “I am delighted to see the roll out of the community pharmacy vaccination programme. This will bring a further boost to the regional and national vaccination programme and ensure that even more people in our communities are protected from the virus.

“The advantage in being able to receive the vaccine at participating local community pharmacies is their accessibility so people can get the vaccine at a location more convenient to them.

“We do ask the public for patience over the coming weeks as this new service gets up and running. Pharmacists will be vaccinating the public along with their usual work in ensuring the safe supply of medicines and provision of medical advice.  

“As clinically trained vaccinators, community pharmacists are looking forward to begin vaccinating their communities and contribute even further to the wider Covid-19 response.”

As always, the pace of the roll-out of the vaccination programme will be dependent on the availability of vaccine supplies.

 MLA Conor Murphy has welcomed the plans to use local pharmacies.
The Newry & Armagh MLA said "The vaccination programme across the North has been a great success but for people in South Armagh the use of Craigavon as our vaccine centre creates access difficulties, particularly for those who rely on public transport.

I  have raised this issue with the Health Minister at a number of Executive meetings and have been assured that the plans to involve local pharmacies in vaccine delivery should be in place by Easter. 

This is good news for those living in rural border areas and will complement the service being delivered by our GPs".

He concluded "The Covid 19 vaccines are a key element in our efforts to suppress the virus and it is important that they are accessible to all who wish to avail of them.

While the centre in Craigavon provides an excellent service, increased availability at local level through our pharmacies and GPs will ensure an even greater uptake".

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