The roll-out of the second approved coronavirus vaccine is now underway in Wales.
Around 40,000 doses of the vaccine, developed by AstraZeneca and Oxford University, have been made available for the first two weeks of the roll-out, which started on Monday (January 4).
The vaccine was approved by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency on December 30 – three weeks after the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine was approved for use in the UK.
Frontline health and social care workers, care home residents and people aged 80 and above have already started to receive the Pfizer-BioNtTech vaccine.
Around 100m doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine have been secured by the UK Government, with Wales receiving its allocation based on population in the coming weeks and months.
Each person will need two doses of the vaccine to maximise its effectiveness, with a gap of between four and 12 weeks between the doses.
Wales’ Health Minister, Vaughan Gething, said: “Today marks a key milestone in our fight against the Covid-19 pandemic.
“The roll-out of the AstraZeneca vaccine has been called a ‘game changer’ and this is true – its potential should not be underestimated.
“In less than a month Wales’ NHS has mobilised the largest vaccination programme our country has ever seen and so far more than 35,000 people have received their first dose.”
Dr Gillian Richardson, senior responsible officer for Wales’ Covid-19 vaccination programme, described the roll-out as “fantastic news”.
Dr Richardson said: “Pace will be governed by supply, which will start slowly this week but build vastly over the coming weeks and months.
“However, vaccinations are happening in GP surgeries from today and we will also see an increase in our vaccination centres over the course of this month.
“It is so important that people continue to wait their turn for the vaccine – you will be contacted when your time comes. Please do not contact your GP or local pharmacy and add unnecessary pressures to their workload.”
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The different vaccines
The UK Government has procured vaccines on behalf of the four nations and around 100m of these are of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine, with Wales receiving its allocation based on population over the next weeks and months. Two doses will be needed, with an interval of between four and 12 weeks between doses.
At the beginning of December, the Pfizer BioNTech vaccine was the first to receive MHRA approval in the UK. Forty million doses of the vaccine have been made available for delivery across the UK.
Based on a UK-wide priority system, the Pfizer BioNTech vaccine has already begun to be administered to frontline health and social care staff, as well as care home residents and staff and people aged over 80. Latest figures show that in the first three weeks, 35,000 people were vaccinated.
Unlike the Pfizer BioNTech vaccine, the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine is stored at normal vaccine fridge temperatures. This means it will have few storage and transportation issues, making it much easier to use in community settings such as care homes and primary care settings like GP surgeries.
People are asked not to phone their GP, pharmacy or hospital asking when they will get a vaccine. When someone is in one of the groups eligible for the vaccine, they will be invited to attend a dedicated clinic which will have been set up to ensure patient safety and that of the healthcare professionals.
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