Northern Ireland’s Covid-19 vaccination programme is to be expanded to all those aged between 40 and 44.

People in that age bracket will be able to book a jab from noon on Thursday.

Health Minister Robin Swann described the expansion as “very welcome news to people in this age group”.

“Vaccination is by far our best defence against Covid-19 and is essential to our goal of getting Northern Ireland out of lockdown on a sustainable basis,” he said.

The Department of Health described the rollout of the vaccination programme as dependent on the availability of vaccine supplies.

By Wednesday almost one million doses of vaccine had been administered in Northern Ireland.

Of the 958,783 total, 790,860 were first doses and 167,923 were second doses.

Meanwhile, the health department announced on Wednesday that those under the age of 30 are to be offered alternatives to the Oxford/AstraZeneca jab.

The move was confirmed after the UK medicines regulator said there is a possible link between the vaccine and “extremely rare” blood clots.

But the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) said the benefits of the jab still outweigh the risks overall.

Vaccinations in Northern Ireland can be booked online at

Where online booking is not possible, the telephone booking number is 0300 200 7813.