Covid: First care home residents in Wales get vaccine
Covid vaccinations for care home residents in Wales will begin later.
A pilot for the Pfizer/BioNtech jab will start at a care home in north Wales, with teams going to other health boards across Wales later in the week.
Wales’ health minister said “if all goes well” officials will roll out care home vaccination “ahead of Christmas”.
Care home owners said it was “early steps in a great journey” but warned the vaccination did not mean an open door policy for families of residents.
Initially the vaccine will be given to care homes near hospital pharmacies and the pilot will start at a care home in the Mold area of Flintshire on Wednesday morning before a possible rollout.
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But the group that represents care homes in Wales said the rise in Covid rates across Wales – with some areas among the highest in the UK – meant homes would be “careful” and “cautious” with family visits to residents over the Christmas period.
Latest figures show Wales has the worst infection rate of the four UK nations – with a case rate of 416.5 cases per 100,000 people over seven days – with Merthyr Tydfil, Neath Port Talbot and Bridgend in the top four worst affected local authority areas.
“Nobody wants to be separated at Christmas,” said Care Forum Wales chairman Mario Kreft.
“But there are rises in community transmission across Wales, so we must be very careful as we go forward in these next weeks and months.
“We could see all residents vaccinated by, let’s say, February, so we’re only weeks away.
“Let’s be cautious and not risk anybody’s lives by just worrying about the next visit or the next couple of visits. Let’s just be safe and see ourselves right through to 2021.”
But while Wales’ Older People’s Commissioner was “delighted” the pilot had started, she said it was “crucial” care home residents can have visits from loved ones.
“As it is likely to be some time before all older people living in care homes are protected by the vaccine, it is crucial that residents can stay in close contact with their loved ones,” said Helena Herklots.
She added she wanted “safe visits can go ahead wherever possible, which will be particularly important over the Christmas period”.
Welsh officials had previously not been able to say when vaccination of care home residents would begin, despite the group being a priority for the vaccine programme.
Vaughan Gething, Wales’ health minister, initially said it would not be safe to get the jab to care homes because the vaccine needs to be kept at -70c and health chiefs wanted to use a small number of hubs.
But Pfizer has since confirmed the vaccine could be “packed down” into smaller pack sizes, allowing it to go to care homes, which Mr Gething said can “bring a new level of protection to some of our most vulnerable people”.
Care home residents began to receive the vaccine in Scotland on Monday.
A report had said care homes had been “badly let down” during the coronavirus pandemic with almost 30,000 more residents in England and Wales dying during the the early part of the pandemic than during the same period in 2019.
“The pandemic has been a particularly difficult time for older people living in care homes and their loved ones,” said Ms Herklots.
“I know that staff working across our health and social care systems will be doing all they can to ensure that these pilot initiatives are successful so that the vaccine can be delivered to more care homes throughout Wales.”
The coronavirus vaccine rollout in Wales started last week with front-line health care and social care workers prioritised and about 4,000 people have had their first of two doses of the jab.
Mr Gething said: “We need to continue to make sure we can safely transport the vaccine to people who can’t come to clinics.
“If all goes well this week, we will roll out care home vaccination ahead of Christmas, bringing a new level of protection to some of our most vulnerable people.”
Published at Wed, 16 Dec 2020 00:02:20 +0000