Half the people in top four Swansea vaccination groups have had first dose

A health leader said he was confident the infrastructure was in place to vaccinate the first four Covid priority groups in Swansea and Neath Port Talbot by February 14, as planned.

Keith Reid told a Swansea Bay University Health Board meeting on January 28 that there were some “slight challenges”, but that more than 40,000 first doses had been administered.

Dr Reid, director of public health, said 26,000-plus of these had been administered at mass vaccination centres and 14,000-plus at GP surgeries.

There are just under 89,000 people in Swansea and Neath Port Talbot in the top four groups – and it has now emerged that the halfway mark was reached by 7pm on January 28.

These priority groups are care home residents and care staff, people aged 80 and frontline health and social care workers, people aged 75 years and over, and people aged 70 and over and clinically extremely vulnerable individuals.

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Earlier this month the chief medical officers of Wales, England, Scotland and Northern Ireland decided to defer all second doses of the vaccines to enable more people to get a first jab quickly.

A report before the health board said the plan was to give the second dose after 11 weeks, but to schedule care home residents at seven or eight weeks.

It added that 1,600 out of 1,874 care home residents in Swansea Bay had received their first jab by January 15.

Further vaccination centres could potentially be set up in the spring on top of the ones at the Bay Field Hospital, Margam Orangery and Canolfan Gorseinon.

Ieuan Thomas, aged 80, with his vaccination card
People wait for the jab at Margam Orangery mass vaccination centre

A third vaccine – developed by US pharmaceutical company Moderna – has been approved for use in the UK but fewer doses have been ordered in comparison to the Oxford-AstraZeneca and Pfizer-BioNTech ones.

Dr Reid said there was a school of thought that the Moderna vaccine should be deployed in a single area or region.

Independent board member Jackie Davies said some elderly people wanted reassurance that the health board knew about them, and that they wouldn’t be missed off the vaccination list.

Dr Reid said all GP-registered patients went onto the nationwide Welsh Immunisation System, which was being constantly upgraded.

Asked about people’s adherence to the coronavirus restrictions having been vaccinated, Dr Reid said it was vital that this didn’t change.

He said it was not clear yet whether inoculated people – while being individually protected – could still harbour the virus and transmit it to others.

“It’s really important that people who have been vaccinated continue to abide by the guidance,” said Dr Reid.

Earlier in the meeting he raised concerns that less than a quarter of the testing capacity in Swansea and Neath Port Talbot was currently being used, although that was partly down to a recent rise in capacity.

“We are missing cases and that allows for onward transmission,” he said.

The day after the meeting, on January 29, the health board confirmed 44,480 doses had been administered as of 7pm on January 28.

Dr Reid hailed this halfway first dose milestone.

He said: “To go from a standing start, delivering vaccines we had never dealt with before to an enormous number of vulnerable people and critical care workers has been a truly mammoth task.”

He added: “There is still work to do and if you are in groups one to four and still haven’t heard, we will get to you very soon. Please be patient.”

GP Dr Mark Goodwin, of Afan Valley group practice in Glyncorrwg, said: “Hope and optimism abounds in our primary care vaccination clinics.

“There is definitely a positive buzz, patients and staff smiling.”

Dr Iestyn Davies, lead for the Cwmtawe cluster of GP practices, said: “Given the challenges faced in obtaining the vaccinations it is reassuring that we have hit such a target in such a short space of time.

“It goes to show that there is a willingness amongst staff to vaccinate efficiently, but also in our communities that patients realise the benefits of having the vaccination in order to protect themselves and work towards returning to normality.”

WalesOnline – Swansea