More than 600,000 coronavirus vaccine doses have been administered in Northern Ireland.
The total is significantly ahead of the schedule followed by planners of the massive logistics effort, Stormont Health Minister Robin Swann said.
Health trust Covid-19 vaccination centres in the North have this week begun inoculating those aged 60 to 64, as well as carers.
Minister Swann has praised the work of all those involved in the NI vaccination programme as the number of doses delivered rose to more than 6⃣0⃣0⃣, 0⃣0⃣0⃣
— Department of Health (@healthdpt) March 5, 2021
Mr Swann said: “I know the huge amount of planning and hard work that has gone into delivering this highly complex programme and I want to thank all of our vaccinators, administrators and volunteers who are making this happen.
“Every jab takes us further down the pathway towards a better and safer future.
“We are on our way to a million doses and very soon we will be rolling out the programme to all adults through the mass vaccination phase of the programme.”
The latest running total shows 609,798 vaccines administered. Of these, 568,011 are first doses and 41,787 second doses.
To date 44,000 people who are clinically extremely vulnerable (CEV) have been jabbed.
GP practices are also vaccinating carers who are known to doctors and they are also making good progress in the vaccination of people on their patient lists who are either CEV or clinically vulnerable to the virus.
Almost 123,000 health and social care staff have been vaccinated. This includes trust-employed staff and independent staff.
Patricia Donnelly, head of the vaccination programme, said: “This has been another outstanding week for our vaccination teams and with a good supply of vaccine to hand, we are moving forward at pace.
“I would urge all who are eligible but who have not stepped forward yet to make their appointments as soon as possible.
“In the coming weeks community pharmacists will join the vaccination efforts, working in tandem with GPs and the regional vaccination centres to ensure the vaccine is even more accessible to people of all ages right across Northern Ireland.
“In addition, we will receive a boost in supplies of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine which means we can use it in some of our regional vaccination centres, as well as in GP practices and pharmacies.
“This is very welcome news.”
In February 2020 we admitted our first patient with Covid-19.
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There have been two more Covid-19 fatalities, the Department of Health said.
Another 166 people have tested positive.
A total of 216 hospital beds are occupied by Covid-19 patients, 29 in intensive care.
The youngest children will return to primary schools across Northern Ireland on Monday but are set to go back to remote learning after two weeks.
Deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill has said ministers hope the process of exiting lockdown will be well advanced by June 10th.
First Minister Arlene Foster has said the R number lies between 0.65 and 0.75, and has hailed the fall in the number of people testing positive for Covid-19 – down to 5 per cent.