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Coronavirus

Welsh Government defend fact that JUST ONE pharmacy in the whole of Wales is currently giving COVID vaccinations

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An open letter by Community Pharmacies Wales calls for more engagement from Welsh Government to speed up the roll-out of COVID vaccinations in Wales.

It comes as NHS England is aiming for more than 200 chemists in communities in England to deliver 1,000 vaccine doses a week by the end of January. In Wales just one pharmacy is currently delivering COVID vaccinations.

Community Pharmacies Wales (CPW), the body that represents pharmacies in Wales said: “Everything needs to be sped up. At a minimum, all community pharmacies who currently deliver flu vaccine should be immediately invited to participate and absolutely no community pharmacy that expresses an interest should be turned down.”

Andrew RT Davies MS

Andrew RT Davies MS – the Conservative Shadow Health Minister – described the letter as a “damning indictment” of the Labour administration’s approach to managing the pandemic.

Mr Davies said: “Pharmacies in England are joining the fight against the virus and starting to play their role in the rollout of the vaccination programme, and here in Wales there is great enthusiasm from pharmacies to do just the same.

“Community pharmacies are a trusted and friendly face on the high street and need to be deployed as soon as possible to expand the vaccination roll out across Wales.  

“It is worrying they have yet to be commissioned and engagement has been so minimal, and this could be another example where the Welsh Labour Government is forced to play catch-up.

“This dither and delay could cost lives and livelihoods and it’s now imperative the First Minister eases the pressure on the health minister and appoints a dedicated vaccinations minister to deliver the rollout at rapid speed.”

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Vaughan Gething MS

Health Secretary Vaughan Gething MS said: “We are in the early stages of delivering the largest vaccination programme Wales has ever seen and the sheer scale of what has been achieved so far, and continues to happen, should not be underestimated.

“The roll-out of these vaccines to everyone eligible adult in Wales as quickly as if safe to do so is truly an example, once again, of our inspiring healthcare workforce coming together as one. 

“A mix of vaccination sites and centres have been selected to ensure everyone across the country has equal access to a vaccination. People can be expected to be asked to attend either a mass or community centre, hospital, GP practice, pharmacy or mobile unit.

“Just because there isn’t a type of service near to you, this does not mean any less is happening.

“Safety is of course at the fore of all that our Health Boards and staff do, but we have also worked to ensure our vaccination locations meet the needs of the characteristics of the vaccines and are as conveniently located as possible for the community it will serve.

“Your local pharmacist may not be offering the jab just yet, but they may very well be working all hands-on-deck at your local mass vaccination centre instead.

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“Conversely, mass vaccination centres aren’t suitable for every local authority so you may be asked to attend a community or mobile centre.

“We also want people to feel comfortable to be vaccinated and to do this as conveniently as possible too, especially for those most at risk from the harms of coronavirus. This means using GP practices for a lot of our national delivery and they will be a key focus as the roll-out progresses.

“I cannot stress enough; your local health care workforce are doing absolutely everything they can, and to them I am immensely thankful.

“When it is your turn, you will be notified of where to go. Please do not call your GP or health services to request a COVID-19 vaccine and add undue pressure to their workloads.”

Pharmacy settings are being piloted – similar to how care homes were in the initial stages – to establish the quickest, safest way to deliver vaccinations in these specific settings as they are much different and varied compared to GP surgeries and the bigger vaccination centres.

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Nurse with COVID vaccination (Image: Welsh Government)

Fferyllfa Llŷn Cyf in Llanbedrog, which falls under the Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board area, is the first (and only) in Wales to offer the Oxford AstraZeneca vaccine from a pharmacy setting.

Pharmacist Llyr Hughes of Fferyllwyr Llŷn Cyf said: “We are incredibly proud to be the first pharmacy in Wales to roll out the COVID-19 vaccine and are keen to do all we can to support the Health Board and Welsh Government accelerate the roll out of the programme.

“Our aim is to work together with the Mass Vaccination Centres, GP practices and community pharmacies to deliver the largest vaccination programme the NHS has ever seen.

“Pharmacists play a huge role in vaccinating against flu on a yearly basis and have the skills and expertise to provide the new immunisations.

“I’m looking forward to seeing pharmacies across Wales play a big part in helping to protect our communities as the programme expands.”


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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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