David Young, PA
Anti-vaccine protesters have disrupted operations at a walk-in vaccination clinic for pregnant women, the North’s health minister Robin Swann has said.
The clinic for new and expectant mothers was run by the Western health trust in the Foyle Arena in Derry on Saturday afternoon.
Mr Swann condemned those who demonstrated at the facility.
“This latest protest is contemptible,” he said.
“I want to express my gratitude and solidarity to the vaccination team working at the Foyle Arena today. I am pleased to see pregnant women and new mothers coming forward to get protected through vaccination, in line with expert scientific advice. I would encourage more to do so.
“There is sadly no reasoning with these anti-vax crusaders, who remain wedded to their misinformed and distorted agenda. My message to them is simple — you will not divert us from our responsibility to get as many people vaccinated as possible. Vaccination saves lives and reduces levels of serious illness.”
On Friday, the health and social care board expressed concern at increasing numbers of unvaccinated young people and pregnant women being admitted to hospital with Covid-19.
It said there had been instances of unvaccinated pregnant women needing ICU care and emergency caesarean sections.
The Western trust has plans for two more pop-up clinics for new and expectant mothers before the end of the month.
The walk-in facilities offer first jabs of the Pfizer vaccine and no appointments are necessary.
Five further deaths linked to Covid-19 were reported in Northern Ireland on Saturday.
The five people who died had previously tested positive for the virus.
The North’s department of health also reported 1,437 new confirmed cases of Covid-19 on Saturday.
On Friday, the health and social care board also warned of further surgery cancellations as staff continue to be diverted to treat increasing numbers of Covid patients in intensive care.
It said action was needed to increase ICU capacity in hospitals across the region and the only way to achieve that was to redeploy specialist staff working in other areas of the healthcare system.
On Thursday, 60 per cent of patients in ICUs in the North were not vaccinated and 13 per cent only had received one jab.
Hundreds of procedures have been cancelled in recent weeks, including some urgent cancer surgeries, due to the pressure on the system.
The health and social care board said more cancellations were inevitable next week.