Over 600,000 first doses have now been administered in Northern Ireland. As this figure continues to grow, so too will the number of second doses administered. Holly O’Doherty spoke to two people who are awaiting their second dose of the vaccine to better understand their experience.
89-year-old Evelyn Gillen was offered the vaccine through her GP practice and received her first dose of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine on January 14. Her second dose is due to be administered on April 8. Susan O’Doherty, Ms Gillen’s daughter and carer, was with her when she received her first dose. Mrs O’Doherty said, “I was relieved when she received the vaccine. I just trust and hope that all will be okay and as long as she has the protection to fight COVID-19, well I can’t ask for anymore.”
Megan McCorriston, a 22-year-old pharmacy student received her first dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine on January 12. Her second dose of the vaccine will be administered on 30 March. Miss McCorriston was offered the vaccine as she works within the NI health service. When asked how she felt after receiving her first dose, she said, “I had been working in a community pharmacy throughout the pandemic and I definitely felt a lot safer going into work then.”
The number of COVID-19 deaths and hospitalisations continue to decrease. This is a clear goal marker for the health service in NI. Stormont have also released a roadmap out of lockdown that is driven by case numbers and the changing R rate.
Both women have a tentative feeling of cautious hope as they wait for the second dose of the vaccine to be administered. Mrs O’Doherty stated, “This vaccine rollout gives everyone, at least in the vulnerable groups, some hope that we are not too far away from normality.”
Miss McCorriston said, “I think most people will still have some level of anxiety and fear until the vaccine is completely rolled out because we also want to see our family and friends protected too. You know we have seen cases over the past 12 months where young, healthy people were severely impacted by COVID-19 and so I don’t think we will be completely in the clear until everyone, young and old, is vaccinated.”
There is a divergence of opinion regarding the NI vaccine rollout. Mrs O’Doherty states that the rollout at the GP practice was “like a conveyor belt.” But Miss McCorriston believes Stormont have not used enough of their resources. She thinks the vaccine rollout programme would be accelerated if other healthcare professionals were called upon for help, from the beginning.
Over 2,000 individuals have now died due to COVID-19 in NI. This figure is set in tandem with continuing lockdown restrictions that were issued by Stormont in December 2020. Both Miss McCorriston and Mrs O’Doherty expressed frustration and exhaustion towards the handling of the pandemic over the last year. The former said, “The lockdown restrictions cause a lot of stress and anxiety due to their ambiguity.”
Mrs O’Doherty believes Stormont fell short of their responsibilities. She stated, “The lockdown was not handled correctly at all. They needed to keep the population, especially the vulnerable, safe.”
Further information relating to the NI vaccine rollout programme, is available at https://www.nidirect.gov.uk/articles/covid-19-vaccination-programme-northern-ireland