94-year-old Eileen Lynch has today become the first person in Northern Ireland in the over 80 category to receive the vaccine developed by Oxford University and AstraZeneca, Northern Ireland's Department of Health said in a statement.

Lynch received the vaccine today, January 4, from Dr. Michael McKenna at her local GP surgery on the Falls Road, Belfast.

Speaking after receiving her vaccine, Lynch said: “I am delighted and privileged to receive the Covid vaccine today.

"I feel like that I can really look forward to the year ahead now that I have been vaccinated. The nurses, doctors, and staff have all been brilliant today so I would also like to say thank you to them.”

The roll-out of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine has begun at GP surgeries across Northern Ireland. 94 year old Eileen Lynch received her vaccine from West Belfast GP Dr Michael McKenna at his Falls Road practice. pic.twitter.com/xBL21pQF4h

— Department of Health (@healthdpt) January 4, 2021

Northern Ireland has received an initial delivery of 50,000 Oxford/Astra Zeneca vaccines, with further supplies expected in the coming days, according to Northern Ireland's Department of Health.

The roll-out of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine follows approval from the Medicines & Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) last week and paves the way for a significant acceleration of Northern Ireland’s vaccination programme.

The Oxford / AstraZeneca vaccine which began to be rolled out today in Northern Ireland has yet to be approved for use in the Republic of Ireland. The Pfizer / BioNTech vaccine has been approved for use in both the United Kingdom, where it began to be rolled out on December 8, and the Republic of Ireland, where it began to be rolled out on December 29.

Speaking at the vaccination clinic on Monday, Chief Medical Officer Dr. Michael McBride said: “Today marks the first phase of our population vaccination program and is a positive step forward. The vaccine programme will transform the situation but as always we must all remain patient.

“First and foremost, we must act to protect those most at risk of severe disease and death. As approved by the MHRA and recommended by the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), prioritisation will be given to those aged 80 years and over. The programme will then be rolled out based on age and other clinical vulnerability factors.”

The JCVI has recently updated its guidance and has recommended that as many people on the JCVI priority list as possible should be offered a first vaccine dose as the initial priority.

Dr. McBride added: “The evidence has very clearly shown that both the Pfizer/BioNTech and the Oxford/Astra Zeneca vaccines provide very high levels of protection after the first dose.

"Providing that level of protection on a large scale will have the greatest impact on reducing death and hospitalisations, protecting the Health and Social Care system. It is the right thing to do for the public health.”

He added: “We are very pleased to get this vaccination programme started for this vulnerable group of people. Many of this group will have been virtually housebound since the start of the pandemic so today’s vaccinations are very welcome.

"I, like other GP practices, look forward to vaccinating more of my patients who are 80 or over in the coming weeks, moving on thereafter to other patient groups.”

Northern Ireland Executive convenes "urgent" meeting

The same day that Northern Ireland begins its roll-out of the Oxford / AstraZeneca vaccine, the region's Department of Health reported 1,801 new cases of coronavirus and 12 more deaths.

Not long after Lynch received her jab on Monday, First Minister Arlene Foster and Deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill announced that the Northern Ireland Executive would today convene an “urgent" meeting to discuss the ongoing coronavirus response in the region:

We will be speaking with HMG at 5pm regarding a Coronavirus response across the four nations. There will be an Executive meeting at 6pm immediately afterwards.

— Arlene Foster #WeWillMeetAgain (@DUPleader) January 4, 2021

We are convening an urgent executive meeting this evening to discuss the fast moving and volatile Covid situation. Urgent decisive action is required to respond.

— Michelle O’Neill (@moneillsf) January 4, 2021

Northern Ireland is currently in the midst of a six-week lockdown that was announced on December 17 and enacted on December 26.

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