Thursday, 1 April 2021
Ceisteanna ó Cheannairí - Leaders' Questions
I answered some of those questions earlier but I am happy to expand further on them. First of all, the vaccine roll-out is going really well in Northern Ireland. I want to congratulate the authorities in Northern Ireland, and in Britain, on the fabulous job they have done in securing vaccines and getting them to people very quickly. That is happening because the UK had a different set of contracts from the EU. Northern Ireland is part of the UK and benefited from that on this occasion. We do not know the exact reasons but it appears that the United Kingdom got preference for the AstraZeneca vaccine over the European Union because of research grants that were given to the University of Oxford by the UK, whereas the EU did not seek such a concession in regard to the grants we gave Pfizer-BioNTech to develop the vaccine in Germany.
However, we will catch up and we are catching up. As I mentioned earlier, we are now much more confident about supplies, and supplies are firming up. More than 1.1 million doses have already arrived in the country. Once they get here, most are in people's arms within three days and almost all within seven days. Over 800,000 vaccines have been given already and 112,000 arrived last night alone. We expect to have up to 1 million doses given by 7 April and to be giving an average of 1 million doses per month in April, May and June. We anticipate that the vast majority of adults, or certainly a clear majority of adults, will have had their first dose or both doses by the end of May, and more than 80% of adults will have been offered their first dose by the end of June. We are on track to achieve that.
Northern Ireland is following the UK approach, as I said, and that approach is based on age-based cohorts. Why were age-based cohorts chosen in Northern Ireland and the UK? It is because it is the fairest way to do it, the quickest way to do it and the best way to do it in terms of vaccinating those most vulnerable first. We are taking this approach in order that we can open the country more quickly, not as quickly as Northern Ireland but more quickly than would be the case if we followed a much more complicated and slower approach.