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Coronavirus

Special clinic vaccinates those at risk of rare reaction

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A highly-specialised clinic has been opened so those at risk of rare and potentially life-threatening allergic reactions can have the Covid vaccine just like everyone else.

Staffed by clinicians with a total of 100 years NHS experience and with extra drugs and support on hand just in case, the once-a-week Morriston Hospital service has already given first and second doses to around 40 people.

They include mum-of-two Alison Holland, 53, from Swansea, who is a staff nurse at Singleton Hospital in the city.

Having almost lost her life to a severe allergic reaction, also known as anaphylaxis, triggered by a general anaesthetic, she was very nervous but knew the benefits of having the Covid vaccine still far outweighed the risks

“I went in for routine knee surgery 12 years ago and had anaphylaxis due to the anaesthetic, which sent me into the most serious form of cardiac arrest which you don’t usually come back from,” she said.

“That’s what made me think about what I was really doing here and inspired me to go into nursing, qualifying two years ago.”

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All health board staff involved in patient care must wear PPE (personal protective equipment) in accordance with current guidance and adhere to strict handwashing to protect patients, regardless of vaccination status.

However most frontline staff will have received their first dose of the vaccine in December or January unlike Alison, who had to wait until now so she could have enhanced monitoring as a precaution.

In the Morriston clinic patients have a one-to-one assessment prior to vaccination with consultant anaesthetist Will McFadzean, who retired from the Welsh Centre for Burns and Plastic Surgery in 2018 and has returned to help with the Covid vaccination programme.

Consultant anaesthetist Will McFadzean, who has returned from retirement to help with the vaccination programme. He is also the clinical lead for the Immbulance mobile vaccination unit. (Image: Swansea Bay NHS)

They lie on trolleys to be vaccinated instead of sitting on chairs and are watched very closely for longer than usual afterwards.

Should the need arise, the experienced nurses have extra drugs on hand to combat reactions and also a direct line to the porters should a patient need transferring to the Emergency Department (ED).

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ED staff can also come up to the clinic to check patients over.

And the service doesn’t stop at the clinic doors. Immunisation and Vaccination Lead, Matron Catherine Watts, will even walk people back to the car once it is safe for them to go home.

Patients will also return to the clinic for their second doses.

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Alison was given her first dose of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine by Immunisation Co-ordinator Catherine Courts and had no ill effects.

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She said: “I am so relieved. My boys are grown up and both live in London and I will be able to go and see them soon and it’s so good knowing that I’ll be going with such great protection.”

All vaccines and medicines carry a very small risk of causing anaphylaxis, which is a medical emergency, in some people. The risk is higher in those with a history of anaphylaxis.

The potentially life-threatening allergic reaction can also be triggered by certain foods, insect stings and substances.

Symptoms include feeling faint, developing a rash, swelling of lips, tongue and throat, which can lead to breathing difficulties, a fast heartbeat, clammy skin, collapse and unconsciousness.

The highly-specialised clinic to to give COVID vaccinations to those at risk of allergic reactions is being held at Swansea’s Morriston Hospital (Image: Swansea Bay NHS)

Some people have to carry automatic injectors containing adrenaline, also known as EpiPens, in case of an attack.

“The only way to avoid any complications from vaccines or anaesthetics is not to have them,” said Doctor McFadzean.

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“But you have to weigh up the risks and, as we know, Covid is not a pleasant illness.

“It’s absolutely essential to have a service like this.”

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Matron Watts said Morriston Hospital was chosen as the venue for the clinic out of an abundance of caution because it has an Emergency Department and Intensive Care Unit on site.

“This is a highly specialised service for the very small number of people who require it,” she said.

“The vast majority of people who come through this clinic won’t need any intervention from us.

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“Some do feel a bit light headed after the vaccination, but often that’s because they’ve been so anxious they haven’t slept or eaten and then feel this huge wave of relief.

“This clinic is about making sure no one is left behind in what is the biggest vaccination programme in NHS history, enabling them to feel part of and confident in the process.”

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She added: “I’d also like to thank our colleagues in head and neck outpatients, who have let us use their recovery room for this clinic, for their unwavering support in helping us to get this up and running.”

The clinic vaccinates on an appointment-only basis. Patients with a history of severe allergic reactions can be referred via their GP.

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Lead image: Immunisation Co-ordinator Catherine Courts, left, and Alison Holland in the Covid vaccination clinic for people at risk of rare allergic reactions. (Image: Swansea Bay NHS)


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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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