The roll-out of the first Covid-19 vaccine will begin within days following its approval for use, Wales’ Chief Medical Officer has said.
The Pfizer-Biontech vaccine has become the first to receive Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency clearance in the UK and 40 million doses of the vaccine will shortly be available for delivery across the UK, with Wales getting its allocation based on population.
The Chief Medical Officer for Wales, Dr Frank Atherton, said: “It is fantastic to finally say that the first Covid-19 vaccine has been given the green light. We know now that we have a safe and effective vaccine for use across the UK – this is the positive news I and so many across the country have been waiting for.
“All our NHS organisations across Wales have embraced the challenge presented to them and are at the advanced stages of planning for the arrival of a vaccine. We have tested distribution and storage arrangements to ensure we can get vaccine safely to every part of Wales.
“There’s still a few stages we need to work through but once all these safeguards are in place, vaccination can begin.
“There will only be relatively small amounts of the vaccine at first, those who have been advised as most needing the vaccine first, through approved delivery mechanisms. A full announcement around the timetable for roll-out in Wales will follow in the next few days.”
The Welsh Government said preparations for the roll-out began in May this year and centres for the vaccine to be administered are being set-up by health boards.
People are urged to wait to be invited, which will happen through NHS systems. Please do not ask your pharmacist or GP.
As further supplies become available and additional vaccines receive MHRA approval, a staged approach will see other groups be offered the vaccine, based on risk of serious complications and deaths.
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What have politicians said about the vaccine?
The First Minister, Mark Drakeford, described the vaccine’s approval as approval as a “small glimmer of light” at the end of a “long and dark tunnel”.
He said: “Whilst these first doses are given at fixed sites and occupational settings, and to protect our NHS and social care services, we must all continue to do our bit to prevent the spread of coronavirus: regular hand washing, social distancing, and wearing a face covering where required to protect yourself and others.”
Labour’s Caerphilly Senedd Member Hefin David said: “This good news about the vaccine is most welcome. It signals a way through this crisis that has affected every one of us.
“The Welsh Government have been preparing for this, in a UK wide approach for some time. I will be meeting with Aneurin Bevan University Health Board on Friday this week and I will seek further information about how the vaccine will be delivered in our area.”
What needs to happen before the roll-out begins
- The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) finalising and publishing their guidance for the whole of the UK;
- Finalising training materials for staff and patient information leaflets;
- Training of experienced immunisers for this particular vaccine;
- Final legal frameworks to allow registered health professionals to administer the vaccine to patients need to be authorised by each Health Board in Wales.
Who will get the vaccine?
The vaccine – which needs to be administered in two doses – will initially be prioritised and available for those aged 80 and over, care home staff and residents and those working within health and social care.
Individuals in the priority groups for a COVID-19 vaccine will receive an invitation from their employer or Health Board providing information about the COVID-19 vaccines, telling them where to go and what to do on the day of their appointment.
There are plans in place for people who are housebound and for care homes to be vaccinated as soon as safely possible, with the approved vaccine being safely taken to them using a mobile service, once cleared for this purpose.
Do I have to have it?
The Welsh Government says the vaccine will not be mandatory and people will be able to choose whether they take the vaccine or not.
Information will be provided to people before vaccination to reassure them about patient safety and robust consent processes will be in place.
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