Northern Ireland's Chief Medical Officer has said he had spoken to Ireland's Deputy Chief Medical Officer Dr Ronan Glynn at "some length" yesterday about the move to pause the rollout of AstraZeneca in the Republic.

Dr Michael McBride, who received the AstraZeneca vaccine this morning, said :"Those are rightly matters for the authorities in the Republic."

Health Minister Robin Swann said he is following the guidance of the UK's medicines regulatory authority and continuing with the roll-out of the AstraZeneca vaccine in the North.

From today over 50s will be able to book a vaccine appointment online in Northern Ireland and the AstraZeneca vaccine is the product mainly used as part of that expanded rollout.

Dr McBride said Ireland's National Immunisation Advisory Committee (NIAC), made "a very precautionary decision, they've recognised that, while they assess the evidence more fully."

After receiving the AstraZeneca jab, Dr McBride insisted it was "safe and effective".

He said the UK's Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) had made clear there was no evidence of a link between the vaccine and reported cases of blood clots.

He said there had been no reported concerns of vaccine linkage to clotting in Northern Ireland.

"Obviously the authorities in the Republic have made a decision. I understand that was a very precautionary decision. And they're going to look at that later this week."

He said: "I didn't need to be called a second time this morning when the opportunity was to get my vaccine.

"The MHRA is very clear that they do not feel that those are linked to the vaccine and are probably random events which are occurring, and would have occurred normally.

"What the public should be assured of is that the MHRA is a global leader in safety and efficacy of vaccines and is publishing data on side effects on a weekly basis."


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Dr McBride said he was delighted to get the AstraZeneca vaccine.

"This is a safe, effective vaccine as recommended by MHRA and let's remember - this virus kills people, kills people my age, younger people and older people, and the benefit is strongly in favour of people getting this vaccine at this time.

"I was very relieved and pleased to get the vaccine today and I would encourage everyone else to get the vaccine when they are called, when they come to the top of the queue.

"This is part of our pathway out of this virus, out of this pandemic, this virus has taken a huge toll on each and every one of us. This, hopefully, is the beginning of us having a different balance as we continue to fight this pandemic.

"I'm really, really pleased to get the vaccine and I'm relieved to get the vaccine," he said. 

Northern Ireland's First Minister Arlene Foster has urged people to take the AstraZeneca vaccine.

She said: "The MHRA (Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency) have been very clear that it is safe to take the AstraZeneca vaccine.

"I am looking forward to taking it, either this week or next week, depending on when I am able to get my vaccine booked for, but it is very important that people continue to take the vaccine.

"We have made huge progress in the UK in relation to the vaccine, so it is important that people continue to do that so we can leave lockdown in the rearview mirror and we can move on with our lives." 

Meanwhile, one further person who had previously tested positive for coronavirus has died in Northern Ireland, bringing the toll in the region to 2,099.

Another 121 cases of the virus were also notified on Monday. 

There are 182 patients with Covid-19 being treated in hospitals, with 22 in ICUs, 16 of whom are on ventilators.

Earlier, the Deputy Chair of the British Medical Association's Northern Ireland committee of GPs said that a British Medical Journal review showed that of the 11 million AstraZeneca doses given to date in the UK, there has been no increase in clotting events above what is normally seen in the national population.

Dr Frances O'Hagan said she will be starting to administer the second vaccine doses for the over 70s next week, that all those aged over 60 in her area have been offered a first vaccine and they will now move on to offer a first dose to over 50s.

Speaking on RTE's Today with Claire Byrne, she said it "serves nobody well that two parts of our island are not being vaccinated at the same time".