The Oxford/AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccination programme's roll-out started in Lisnaskea on Tuesday, with patients from the Maple Health Care Practice invited to the Castle Park Centre to receive their long-awaited jab.

Speaking to The Impartial Reporter about the progress of the roll-out, GP Dr. John Porteous said: “We are getting on fine; we are working to make the progress run as smoothly as possible.”

The practice in Lisnaskea, which serves the surrounding area, received 600 doses on the vaccine to vaccinate more than 500 of the over-80s who are patients.

When they have all been vaccinated, the practice will then begin vaccinating the over-75s.

Dr. Porteous wished to remind all those who are due to receive the vaccine across Fermanagh that they will be contacted by their GP surgery.

He said: “The role of the practice is to contact the patients; we have a full list of all of our patients, including who has already been vaccinated, and who will be most suitable for this vaccine.

"Currently, some of our staff are in Castle Park, so there are less people in the practice to answer phones, but the service in Lisnaskea and Newtownbutler remains much the same, with five doctors working.

"We are trying to maintain service as normal.”

The Oxford/Astrazeneca vaccine is different to the Pfizer vaccine, in that the second dose can be administered up to 12 weeks after the first dose.

Explaining this, Dr. Porteous said: “The aim is to get the first dose to as many people as possible. We want more than 90 per cent of people to have the vaccine as soon as possible to stop the Covid-19 spread, and begin 'herd immunity'.”

He was hopeful that the second dose could be administered in patients in Lisnaskea in 10-12 weeks’ time.

However, the vaccination is not a 'quick-fix' protection from Covid-19, as Dr Porteous explained.

“It takes three to four weeks from the first dose for the body to benefit from the [vaccination-prompted] antibodies, but full protection won’t come until the second dose.”

He was hopeful that most other practices in Fermanagh should receive their batch of the vaccine before the end of the week.

Dr. Porteous thanked Fermanagh and Omagh District Council for use of the Castle Park Centre in Lisnaskea, and also thanked all of the staff for their support as the vaccination programme progressed.

WITH the vaccinations' initial roll-out now well under way, a Department of Health update revealed: “In addition to the roll-out of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine, more than 46,000 first doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine have now been administered to care home residents and staff, as well as Health and Social Care (HSC) staff.

“Since the vaccination programme began on December 8, 2020, a total of 46,043 first doses have been given to 9,644 care home residents, and 11,260 care home staff.

"Vaccination teams have now visited 439 out of the 483 care homes in Northern Ireland – that's every home that doesn’t currently have a Covid-19 outbreak.

"We expect the remaining care homes to be vaccinated by mid-January.

"A total of 25,623 HSC staff have now received the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine at seven Trust vaccination centres – this is more than a third of the workforce.”

The numbers for those vaccinated in the Western Trust include 1,288 residents. 1,301 care home staff, people at 58 care homes, and 3,982 HSC staff..