A coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccine developed by Pfizer/BioNTech has been approved for use in the UK. The vaccine is available in Northern Ireland from this week.

The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), an independent expert group, has recommended that the HSC offers this vaccine first to those at highest risk of catching the infection and of suffering serious complications if they catch the infection.

This includes frontline health and social care workers, care home residents and staff, and those with certain clinical conditions. When more vaccine becomes available, the vaccines will be offered to other people at risk as soon as possible.

The vaccine has met strict standards of safety, quality and effectiveness set out by the independent Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA).

Other vaccines are being developed. They will only be available once they have been thoroughly tested to make sure they are safe and effective.

Read in full COVID-19 VACCINATION PROGRAMME PHASED PLAN

While the vaccine may help protect you from coronavirus, it's still important to follow social distancing guidance and other restrictions to keep each other safe.

CARERS ARE NOW IN PRIORITY 6 GROUP FOR COVID VACCINATIONS

To avail of this, you will need to make sure your GP practice is aware that you are caring for someone.

The vaccine is free and practices will contact patients in order of priority to receive the COVID-19 vaccination. This priority list has been set by the Department of Health.

Your GP will get in touch with you so there’s no need for you to contact your GP surgery.

Scheduling of vaccination clinics may cause some delays in routine services, such as repeat prescriptions, so it’s important that you plan ahead and give GP practices a little extra time to organise their services.

However, anyone who needs care and needs to be seen, will continue to be seen.

Vaccines will be delivered by mobile teams to care homes and will also be made available in primary care settings and at seven large trust sites:

Belfast Trust - Royal Victoria Hospital, Belfast

South Eastern Trust - Ulster Hospital, Dundonald

Southern Trust - South Lakes Leisure Centre, Craigavon

Northern Trust - Seven Towers Leisure Centre, Ballymena

Western Trust - Foyle Arena, Londonderry

Omagh Leisure Centre, Omagh

Lakeside Leisure Centre, Enniskillen

 A total of 321 GP practices across Northern Ireland have begun vaccinating their patients using the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine.

 GPs will be offering clinics, using drive through car parks or working in community halls.

Information materials on the COVID-19 Vaccination Programme are available  here.