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Covid-19 Vaccines

Volume 690: debated on Wednesday 3 March 2021

What recent discussions he has had with (a) Cabinet colleagues and (b) the Northern Ireland Executive on the supply of covid-19 vaccines in Northern Ireland. (912609)

Since the start of the pandemic, the UK Government have worked closely with the Northern Ireland Executive to ensure the safety of the people in Northern Ireland. Vaccines are our way out of the pandemic, and the Secretary of State and I continue to hold regular discussions with Cabinet colleagues in the Northern Ireland Executive on this important issue. The Government have procured vaccines on behalf of all parts of the United Kingdom and are working with the devolved Administrations to ensure that they are deployed fairly across the UK. I am pleased to see that vaccine doses have been successfully administered to more than half a million people in Northern Ireland.

In Dewsbury, Mirfield, Kirkburton and Denby Dale, the roll-out of the vaccine has been a huge success thanks to the amazing work put in by North Kirklees and Greater Huddersfield clinical commissioning groups, and we appear to be well on track to hit the mid-April target for vaccinating cohorts 1 to 9. Will the Minister reassure the people of Northern Ireland that the target will also be met there, ensuring that we come out this pandemic as one United Kingdom?

My hon. Friend is right about this being a United Kingdom effort, and I congratulate his local clinical commissioning groups on what they are doing. When I visited the Worcester vaccination centre, I was pleased to be met by an ex-military logistics officer from Belfast—that shows the contribution that Northern Ireland is making to the UK roll-out. As of Monday 1 March, 558,000 vaccines have been administered to more than 29% of Northern Ireland’s population, including 525,000 first doses. Every step of the way, the UK Government work closely with the devolved Administrations, and I thank and commend those in the Department of Health, the local health trusts and the Executive who have helped to deliver such progress.

The vaccine roll-out is a great achievement, not just for the Minister here but for all the Ministers from the devolved Administrations, because we are part of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland—better together. In less than two weeks, at 16:40 on 15 March, I will receive the vaccine at the Ulster Hospital when my opportunity on the list comes round.

On supply, will the Minister further outline what discussions have taken place with regard to the needs of rural isolated communities, which will need dedicated clinics because they will find it difficult to make it to the centralised locations for the vaccine roll-out?

We all welcome the news that the hon. Gentleman has waited his turn and got an appointment to receive a vaccine. He raises an important point. Although of course the delivery of the vaccine in Northern Ireland is primarily a matter for the Department of Health in Northern Ireland, we will continue to work closely with it to support the vaccine roll-out to all communities, including those in remote and rural areas.