The Welsh Government’s claim that it has offered vaccinations to all adult care home residents and staff in Wales is wrong, according to a care home manager in Caerphilly.
According to the manager, residents in her care home continue to wait to receive a vaccination despite being promised one by January 31.
Speaking remotely to plenary at the Senedd on Tuesday, February 2, Health Minister Vaughan Gething confirmed that the target to vaccinate residents in care homes by January 31 only applies to “older person care homes”.
However, this is contrary to what certain care home managers understood when the Welsh Government’s vaccine priority list was first published on January 11.
The manager of one small residential adult care home in the Caerphilly County told Caerphilly Observer that none of the residents at her home, who are aged 67 to 77, had received an invitation for a vaccine.
The same manager, who wishes to remain anonymous, said: “To me, we are being discriminated against because we are a small home.
“Regardless of our size, we have to stick to the same guidelines as large homes and we absolutely expected to be vaccinated in line with the government’s first priority group.
“All our residents are over the age of 65 and they should have been vaccinated by now.
“It feels like we have been sidelined. We have residents in their seventies with physical disabilities and learning difficulties, yet they continue to have to wait to receive a vaccine.
“The government set a target to vaccinate all care home residents and staff, and it feels like they have moved the goal posts to claim they have met this target.
“The council have been fantastic in supporting us, but it feels like there is an obstruction from the government.”
The Welsh Government’s vaccination priority list, announced on Monday, January 11, placed “people living in a care home for older adults and their staff carers” in priority group one.
Speaking on Tuesday, January 12, Vaughan Gething said: “By the end of January, all care home residents and staff will have been offered their first dose of the vaccine.”
On Monday, February 1, the Welsh Government announced this target had been met, however critics say that is not the case unless it applies to all residents and staff in all adult care homes.
It is understood that the Welsh Government is using the definition of ‘older adult care homes’ as those where the majority of residents are aged over 65, a definition that was phased out following the Social Services and Well-being (Wales) Act 2014.
Even by this definition, however, there are care homes that meet that requirement that still have residents who are yet to receive a vaccine.
Delyth Jewell, Senedd Member for South Wales East, said: “When the Health Minister first presented the vaccination strategy, he clearly stated that all care home residents and staff would be vaccinated by the end of January.
“He’s now claiming that it was only older people care homes that he had in mind, and that no change in policy has occurred to not include adult care homes, such as those who care for people with learning disabilities.
“There is no justification for not including care homes for people with learning disabilities, as these residents are already vulnerable and face greater physical health challenges.
“Given that the Welsh Government was so desperate to meet their target of offering vaccinations to all care homes by the end of January, I find it difficult to believe that it was always the plan to neglect care homes for people with learning disabilities.
“The Welsh Government has a duty to all care homes to keep their promise to vaccinate all residents and staff as soon as possible.”
Care Forum Wales confirmed to Caerphilly Observer that vaccines should have been offered to all staff and residents in care homes where residents are aged 65 and above.
In at least one care homes in Caerphilly however, this is not the case.
On Monday, February 1, the Older People’s Commissioner for Wales announced that, based on the latest published figures available, around a quarter of older people living in care homes in Wales appear to still be waiting to be vaccinated.
Heléna Herklots CBE, said: “It is disappointing that, despite confirming that visits to care homes by vaccination teams have been planned, the Welsh Government did not provide any information about when vaccines would actually be delivered to residents.
“I have written to the Welsh Government to raise my concerns about this delay, and have asked them to provide me with a detailed timeline that sets out when they expect all older people living in care homes to have received their first dose of vaccine.
“I am also seeking assurance that this delay will not impact upon the roll-out of the vaccine to other priority groups or the roll-out of people’s second doses.
“Every dose of vaccine delivered to older people offers protection and reduces the chance of those who are most vulnerable to coronavirus of becoming seriously ill, while any delay in vaccinating those in priority groups leaves older people’s health and lives at risk.”
A Welsh Government spokesperson said: “Wales, in line with the other UK nations, is vaccinating people who are most at-risk of catching coronavirus and developing serious illnesses first, as recommended by the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI).
“In priority group six, the Committee’s advice is to offer vaccination to all individuals aged 16 years to 64 years with underlying health conditions which put them at higher risk of serious disease and mortality. People with profound and severe learning disabilities will be offered the vaccine as part of this group.
“Adults with Down’s Syndrome have been identified as at an even higher risk and are being offered the vaccine as part of group 4, people who are extremely clinically vulnerable.”
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