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Coronavirus

Health board says COVID-19 vaccination programme now well underway in Swansea and Neath Port Talbot

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GP practices across Swansea and Neath Port Talbot are joining the Covid-19 vaccination programme.

Primary care clusters (groups of GP practices who work in partnership) have now started delivering vaccinations to residents in care homes.

In addition, individual GP surgeries across Swansea and Neath Port Talbot will soon start inviting other people over the age of 80 who are not in care homes, but still living at home or elsewhere in the community, for vaccination.

Plans are now being finalised to be able to offer vaccinations at local GP practices. We are hopeful that most practices will start towards the end of next week and will be offering vaccines in the period up to the end of January.

However people are being asked not to contact their GP practice at this stage, as they will not be in a position to confirm details.  Patients will be contacted directly by their practice in due course.

And this week nearly 40 vulnerable longer-stay patients with dementia at Cefn Coed Hospital were also given vaccinations to protect them.

On Tuesday (5th January) the Afan Primary Care Cluster become the first in Swansea Bay to begin vaccinating care home residents in its patch. Led by Dr Mark Goodwin, (pictured above) of Afan Valley Group Practice, over 300 vaccinations are expected to be given in care homes in the Port Talbot area this week. The other clusters will be following suit over the course of next week. 

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So far around 8,400 frontline NHS and social care workers in Swansea and Neath Port Talbot have already received the first of their two scheduled vaccinations.

By the end of January, it is planned that all 23,000 frontline health and social care staff in Swansea and Neath Port Talbot will have been offered their first vaccination, helping to safeguard not only the workers themselves, but key services they provide.

The New Year has brought new opportunities in the fight against Covid – with many tens of thousands more vaccinations lined up for the months ahead across Swansea Bay.

Vaccinations started in December, with the first deliveries of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccines given initially at Morriston Hospital to frontline healthcare workers.

Singleton, Cefn Coed and Bay Field hospitals have also been used to give the Pfizer vaccines to frontline healthcare and social care workers.

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Now, from this week, deliveries of the Oxford AstraZeneca vaccine have been received, heralding the start of administering vaccinations more widely into the community, as the logistics around this particular vaccine makes it easier to manage and transport.

Although it will be many months before all the vaccines needed to protect our local communities are administered across the region, the Swansea Bay vaccination programme is now moving ahead at a growing pace. The scale of the vaccination programme is unprecedented, and delivery planning is complex, responding to the fast-moving and fluid pandemic situation.

The seven other Swansea Bay primary care clusters will follow the Afan Cluster from next week and begin vaccinating at care homes in their local communities. (These vaccinations will be given at pace, although if someone has tested positive for Covid-19, there needs to be a 28-day gap between the test and a vaccination, which could cause delays in some individuals receiving their first dose.)

Also, most GP surgeries in the Swansea Bay region have now agreed to vaccinate their over-80s patients living in the community. These patients will be invited to come into their local surgery for their vaccination, or if they are housebound, the vaccine will be taken to them. Where vaccinations are not available at a GP surgery, patients will be invited to one of our vaccination centres.

For other patients, two new vaccination centres at the Canolfan Gorseinon Centre and Margam Orangery will be offering a service.   We are hoping that both these centres will be fully operational shortly.

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Once the over-80s are vaccinated the programme will move on to the next most vulnerable group, those aged 75 and over*.

Dr Keith Reid, Swansea Bay UHB Director of Public Heath, said:  “We have made a good start, as around half of the frontline health and social care workers in Swansea and Neath Port Talbot are likely to have had their first vaccinations by the end of this week, and hopefully the vast majority of them by February.

“This is very welcome progress, as these people are at the highest personal risk of catching Covid-19 because they work closely with patients in their daily jobs.

“Getting them vaccinated early not only safeguards their health, but protects the health and social care services they deliver.

“Now, I am delighted to say we are in a position to step the vaccination programme up a few gears, with the delivery of the Oxford AstraZeneca vaccine.

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“It’s very encouraging to see the enthusiasm of our colleagues in primary care who keen to begin vaccinating in the community, so together we can safeguard the most vulnerable people quickly.

“Our new vaccination centres coming on line soon will also make a big difference.”

Primary Care Medical Director, Dr Anjula Mehta, said: “I’m delighted to see our vaccination programme is now well underway, and Primary Care is proud to play a part in this roll out. We do ask people to be patient at this time as we work through the delivery and administration detail based on eligibility criteria. We are working at pace to ensure our citizens are protected by the vaccine as quickly as possible.

“Vaccinations will be by invitation only. People will be contacted by letter or phone when it is their turn and could be given their vaccination at hospital, at their surgery, where they live, or at a vaccination centre at Gorseinon, Margam or the Bay Field Hospital.

“We ask that when they get their invitation, every effort is made to prioritise the appointment, as it may be difficult to rearrange as this programme is working at such pace. If they cannot make the appointment they must let us know so their slot can be offered to someone else. We really appreciate everyone’s co-operation in this mammoth task.”

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Executive Medical Director Dr Richard Evans added:  “The vaccines are a game-changer in the fight against Covid-19. But they won’t end the pandemic overnight. For these vaccines to be effective, it’s essential that we control the spread of this virus.

“It’s more important than ever for all of us to follow the rules and not to be tempted to bend or break them. Please minimise your contact with others: don’t mix with people you don’t live with, don’t visit people in their homes. Wash your hands, wear a face-covering in indoor public places and keep a minimum of two metres from others.

“There is light at the end of the tunnel, but this will only work if everyone plays their part and we all redouble our efforts for a few more months.”

The vaccines are being given in order of a nationally agreed vulnerability criteria:

  1. residents in a care home for older adults and their carers 
  2. all those 80 years of age and over and frontline health and social care workers 
  3. all those 75 years of age and over 
  4. all those 70 years of age and over; and clinically extremely vulnerable individuals 
  5. all those 65 years of age and over 
  6. all individuals aged 16 years to 64 years with underlying health conditions which put them at higher risk of serious disease and mortality 
  7. all those 60 years of age and over 
  8. all those 55 years of age and over 
  9. all those 50 years of age and over

Vaccinations for people aged 16-49 will be considered during Phase Two of the national vaccination programme, once the most vulnerable in the first nine priority groups have received their shots. More details on this will be shared when these become available.


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Coronavirus

Face coverings retained in health and social care settings

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First Minister Mark Drakeford has confirmed the legal requirement to wear a face covering in health and care settings will remain in place.

Speaking after the latest three-week review of the coronavirus regulations, the First Minister said the public health situation was improving following the recent spike in cases caused by the BA.2 sub-type of omicron.

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But Covid case rates remain high so maintaining the use of face coverings in health and care settings will help to protect to some of the most vulnerable people in society, staff and visitors.

The First Minister also urged everyone to continue to take measures to reduce the spread of coronavirus by following a set of simple steps to protect one another and keep Wales safe.

These include self-isolating if ill or testing positive for Covid-19; wearing a face covering in crowded indoor places, meeting outdoors wherever possible; keeping indoor areas well ventilated and washing hands regularly.

First Minister Mark Drakeford said: “The pandemic isn’t over but we are seeing encouraging signs the recent high levels of infections across Wales are falling.

“There are steps we can all take to protect ourselves while coronavirus is still circulating and reduce the spread of the virus even further. This is particularly true in places where some of the most vulnerable people in society are being treated and live, which is why we will retain the legal requirement to wear face coverings in health and social care settings.

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“More generally, ensuring you are up-to-date with your Covid vaccinations and spring booster – if you are eligible – is really important. If you have Covid symptoms or test positive, please stay at home and help break the chain of transmission.

“Together, we can carry on keeping each other safe and keeping Wales safe.”

The next three-weekly review of coronavirus regulations will be carried out by 26 May.

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Coronavirus

Schools’ Covid guidance aligned to businesses and other workplaces

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The Minister for Education and Welsh Language, Jeremy Miles, has announced that Covid-19 measures for schools in Wales will be brought into line with guidance for businesses and other organisations.

The Welsh Government has written to schools in Wales this morning to inform them of the changes.

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Since September last year, schools have applied measures to stop the spread of Coronavirus according to local circumstances, based on the Local Covid-19 infection control decision framework for schools. Schools will no longer be advised to use the framework.

The change is in line with the Welsh Government’s long-term Covid-19 transition from pandemic to endemic. The risk from coronavirus is now considered in the same context as other communicable diseases, such as flu.

The First Minister has announced that the remaining coronavirus restrictions will be removed from 9 May, if the public health situation remained stable. The changes to the guidance for schools will also come into effect from 9 May.

Schools and other education settings will continue to be advised to work with local authorities and public health advisors to ensure that measures remain appropriate and proportionate and reflect local risks and circumstances.

A checklist will be provided to support schools and settings in considering which control measures remain proportionate. Special schools will continue to follow the advice for children and young people with higher clinical risk and clinically extremely vulnerable adults.

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Speaking at the Welsh Government’s weekly press briefing, Jeremy Miles said: “In line with the wider public health guidance published at the last three-week review, we have today written to headteachers to signpost the impending changes to our advice for schools, which reflect the move from pandemic to endemic. This will ensure school guidance is more closely aligned with the rest of society.

“We all know that Covid-19 has not gone way. It remains vitally important we reduce the spread of the virus where we can – this includes, for example, following self-isolation guidance, and for education settings to continue to undertake robust risk assessments.”

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Coronavirus

Health board extends shuttle bus between Llanelli and COVID vaccination centre

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Hywel Dda University Health Board (HDUHB) has extended the free shuttle bus service between Llanelli town centre and the mass vaccination centre in Dafen to help people access their COVID-19 vaccination as easily as possible.

The shuttle bus, provided by Dolen Teifi, will continue to run between 10.30am to 4.40pm, seven days a week – with no service at 12.00pm from town or at 12.15pm from the mass vaccination centre to allow the drivers a lunch break.

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People can board the shuttle bus on the hour and at half-past the hour at Church Street, outside Llanelli Magistrates Court.

The shuttle bus will leave the mass vaccination centre quarter past and quarter to the hour, returning to the town centre and dropping passengers off opposite Llanelli library.

Bethan Lewis, Interim Assistant Director of Public Health for Hywel Dda UHB, said: “We need as many people as possible attending their COVID-19 vaccine appointments, or dropping in if eligible.

“This shuttle bus service is one of many additional resources and services being put in place across the Hywel Dda region to help support more people to receive their COVID-19 vaccination. I am pleased the shuttle bus service has been extended to help people reliant on public transport to access their COVID-19 vaccine.”

On 21 February 2022, the JCVI published a statement, recommending an additional spring booster.

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Strict COVID-19 safety measures are in place to ensure the safety of drivers and passengers on this service, including wearing face coverings unless medically exempt.

A maximum of 14 passengers are allowed per journey with a screen in place between driver and passengers.

The health board say that passengers should only use this service if they are fit and well on the day.

They add that before travelling without an appointment to Dafen mass vaccination centre, people should check the health board’s website for up-to-date information such as vaccine eligibility and drop-in opening times.

(Lead image: Hywel Dda NHS)

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