We humans are very bad at sensing speed. We know when we’re accelerating and we know when we’re slowing down, but once we’re cruising along 15mph and 150mph feel much the same.

That’s more or less where most of us have been with our Covid vaccination programme in Northern Ireland. The initial acceleration, worthy of a superbike, was thrilling – and perhaps a little scary as we wrapped our heads around new terms like antibodies and mRNA. But soon we’d lost our sense of speed. One of the biggest and fastest vaccine drives in Northern Ireland’s history was reduced to idle workplace chat about side effects (sore arm, slight headache and feeling knackered the next day for us).

Now, though, we’re going to feel the slowdown. Yesterday Health Minister Robin Swann gave the first sign that we’re going to have to tap the brakes. “Getting your jab will never be easier or more accessible than it is right now,” he warned. “In the coming weeks, we will inevitably have to stand down aspects of the current programme.”

Every dose has been delivered by amazing, selfless health professionals who should be rightly proud of their part

The public message is clearly a drive to squeeze every last drop of efficiency out of an incredible vaccination infrastructure which at its peak in May administered more than 18,000 doses a day, every one of them delivered by amazing, selfless health professionals who should be rightly proud of their part.

“This will allow us to redeploy much-needed staff back into the health service,” says Robin. “Our GPs, meanwhile, are under intense pressure given the current levels of demand for care. Their vital role in the vaccination programme has shifted from first and second doses to preparing for the vaccine booster dose and the flu vaccine programme after the summer.”

It’s an effort to persuade any of us who have been complacent about the speed that the programme has been travelling at to take note, and maybe to encourage anyone who is still a little nervous about the fast pace of progress to conquer their fears, but that’s not how we see it at Developing Healthy Communities.

For us, it’s simply the last chance to show our gratitude and appreciation for the work that thousands of people have put into delivering the programme by taking them up on the gift that they’ve been working so hard to offer us.