Co Down nurse becomes first person to receive vaccine in Northern Ireland

The first person to receive the vaccine in Northern Ireland was a nurse who will play a key role in the vaccination programme at the country’s main hospital.

Joanna Sloan (pictured), 28, is sister in charge of Covid vaccination for the Belfast Health and Social Care Trust, Northern Ireland’s largest.

She received the jab at the Royal Victoria Hospital in West Belfast on Tuesday morning.

The nurse is from Dundrum in Co Down.

Ms Sloan is a former emergency department nurse and has been in her job for six years.

She is engaged but her wedding was postponed due to the pandemic.

Ms Sloan has a daughter aged five.

Stormont Health Minister Robin Swann said: “Let us not underestimate the importance of today and what we are seeing with the start of our vaccination programme.”

He told the BBC’s Good Morning Ulster programme: “It is a game changer, it is a big day.

“It is the day we have long been waiting for.”

He said it should be greeted with optimism but tempered with caution.

“This is the start of a long road to recovery but we are on the first step.”

The vaccine will be delivered at seven sites across Northern Ireland including the Ulster Hospital’s new Emergency Department near Belfast, the Seven Towers Leisure Centre in Ballymena in Co Antrim, Antrim Forum leisure centre and the Foyle Arena in Londonderry.

Those who will deliver the vaccine to the wider population are the first to receive it.

Residents in care homes and their staff are due to be inoculated before Christmas.

Mr Swann added: “This will make such a difference to that generation, those people with clinical vulnerabilities who have been living in fear of this virus.

“This vaccine gives hope, this vaccine gives the opportunity of a return to normal sooner than we would ever have thought.”

The first doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech jab arrived in Northern Ireland last week after it was approved by UK regulators.

It has an efficacy rate of as high as 95%.

Meanwhile, A 90-year-old grandmother originally from Enniskillen in Co Fermanagh became the first person in the world to have the Pfizer jab outside trial conditions.

Margaret Keenan has lived in Coventry for more than 60 years.

She said: “Hopefully it’ll help other people come along and do what I did, and try and do the best to get rid of this terrible thing.”

Copyright (c) PA Media Ltd. 2020, All Rights Reserved. Picture (c) Liam McBurney / PA Wire.