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.”
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.
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).
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.
Alison was given her first dose of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine by Immunisation Co-ordinator Catherine Courts and had no ill effects.
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.
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.
“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.”
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.
“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.”
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.
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)
Wales extends COVID-19 testing throughout July
Welsh Health Minister, Eluned Morgan has confirmed that access to free LFD tests will be extended in Wales until July 31st 2022.
Tests will be available to the public that are showing symptoms of coronavirus (high temperature a new, continuous cough, a loss or change to your sense of smell or taste), alongside free access for people visiting someone eligible for new COVID-19 treatments.
The announcement comes following a rise in cases, with The Office for National Statistics recent survey reporting an increase in cases across the UK. An estimated 1 in 45 people in Wales currently have COVID-19.
The emergence of the BA.4 and BA.5 sub-variants are also contributing to this increase as they become more dominant across the UK.
The health minister has also announced the following testing will continue to be in place –
- LFD and PCR testing for those eligible for COVID-19 treatments.
- PCR testing for COVID-19 and other respiratory viruses for symptomatic care home residents and prisoners.
- PCR and LFD testing under the patient testing framework and when clinically advised including pre-operative hospital patients and care home residents returning from inpatient hospital stays
- LFD testing for symptomatic health and social care staff.
- Twice weekly LFD tests for asymptomatic testing for health and social care staff
- Those visiting people in care homes should continue to test using tests provided by the care home they are visiting.
Self-isolation payments of £500 will end on 30th June 2022, whilst the COVID-19 Statutory Sick Pay Enhancement scheme will be extended until 31st August 2022 to support social care staff to stay away from work due to testing positive.
Minister for Health and Social Services, Eluned Morgan, said: “Testing has been an effective tool in breaking the chain of transmission and with an increase in cases its vital that we keep testing in place to protect the most vulnerable in our society. As we have seen before, Covid can quickly change, I am announcing this extension in response to the changing picture and new variants of concern.
“I would also ask people to take protective measures to protect the more vulnerable in the community, wear masks in health and care settings, stay at home if you test positive, and take up the offer for the vaccine. We know that the vaccine is the best way to protect yourself, I would urge those eligible to have their spring booster if they have not already had it, the booster is available until June 30.
“Covid has not gone away, whilst we are learning to live safely with it, we will continue to monitor the situation and as we have done for the last two years, we will work together to Keep Wales Safe.”
Coronavirus regulations to end in Wales
First Minister Mark Drakeford today said Wales can look forward to a brighter future, as the last remaining coronavirus protections in law come to an end.
After more than two years of living with coronavirus regulations, these will expire on Monday May 30 when the requirement to wear a face covering in health and care settings ends.
But the Welsh Government will continue to recommend people take simple steps to protect their health – including wearing face coverings in health and care settings – as Wales moves beyond the emergency response to the pandemic.
First Minister Mark Drakeford said: “The pandemic has had a profound impact on all our lives – everyone has made sacrifices and changes over the last two years. But it is thanks to all your efforts that we can move beyond the emergency response while still living safely with this virus.
“I want to thank everyone for all you have done to protect yourselves and your loved ones. You have followed the rules and you have kept Wales safe.
“This three-week review of the coronavirus regulations is a significant milestone – we are completing our careful and gradual transition away from legal protections and away from the emergency response to the pandemic.”
The public health situation is continuing to improve in Wales – results from recent ONS Coronavirus Infection Surveys show the number of people with Covid-19 is falling.
But in the past week, the four UK chief medical officers have warned about the risk from new variants – BA.4 and BA.5.
The First Minister said Wales will remain alert to these and is ready to scale up testing and vaccination arrangements once again if the public health situation changes.
He added: “We remain alert to the threat of new and emerging variants, and we will be ready to respond if we see a rapid spread of the virus, causing widespread harm.
“Continuing to take simple steps, including staying up to date with vaccinations; self-isolating if you have Covid-19 symptoms and maintaining good hand hygiene, will be important in helping us all to enjoy a safer and brighter future together.”
From Monday 30 May, the legal requirement to wear a face covering in health and care settings will end. This follows the outcome of the three-weekly review of coronavirus regulations and completes a gradual, phased easing of legal restrictions since January.
Over the last three weeks the public health situation has continued to improve, with the latest results from the ONS Coronavirus Infection Survey showing the percentage of people testing positive for coronavirus in Wales is falling.
The number of Covid-19 related patients has also fallen to less than 700 and is at its lowest level since 28 December 2021, although the NHS remains under pressure from a combination of emergency and pandemic pressures with a significant number of staff absences.
New COVID vaccination centre opens at Aberavon Shopping Centre
A new COVID vaccination centre for Port Talbot is opening at Aberavon Shopping Centre.
Situated next door to B&M, near the river bridge entrance, Swansea Bay Health Board say it will provide vaccinations to adults and children alike.
The first clinic will be held at the Local Vaccination Centre (LVC) on Thursday, May 26th. Slots will be available by appointment only for the time being.
The health board are asking people not to telephone the shopping centre if they want to make an appointment or if they have a general query. The health board’s booking centre can be contacted on 01792 200492 or 01639 862323.
The opening comes as the health board winds down its vaccination operation at the Bay Field Hospital near Amazon, off Fabian Way, which has been open since the first Covid vaccine was rolled out to health and social care staff in December 2020.
The final Covid vaccination clinic will be held at the Bay Mass Vaccination Centre on Wednesday, June 1st.
Blood tests will continue on that site for the time being.
Covid vaccination clinics will also continue to be scheduled at Canolfan Gorseinon Centre, in the health board’s container in the car park of Morrisons supermarket on Baglan Industrial Park and on the Immbulance mobile vaccination clinic, which stops at various venues across the Swansea Bay area.
Interim Head of Transformation, James Ruggiero, said the move to the shopping centre signals a wider change in the Covid vaccination programme.
“The Bay has been absolutely brilliant for us but thankfully, we no longer need a permanent venue of that size.
“While no one can predict exactly what will happen in the future, we do know that some people, particularly those who are vulnerable, will need Covid boosters to help maintain a level of protection against the coronavirus, which is still out there.
“This new venue is perfect for that and a bonus is that being smaller and less intimidating, it can also be used to host clinics for children aged five to 11.”
Mr Ruggiero added: “Our teams have worked hard to set up this new convenient unit and to make it as comfortable and efficient as possible.
“We hope the public welcome it and enjoy popping to the other shops to pick up a bargain once they’ve come in for their vaccination.”
The Aberafan Shopping Centre LVC will be open between 9.30am and 4.30pm. Vaccinations are on an appointment-only basis for now.
The first vaccinations will be for the spring booster which, in line with JCVI guidance, is being given to those aged 75 and over, older care home residents and those aged 12 and over who are immunosuppressed.
The health board will shortly be announcing clinic dates for those aged five to 11 in June.
A Covid booster programme is due to run in the autumn, with interim JCVI advice saying that Residents in a care home for older adults and staff working in care homes for older adults; Frontline health and social care workers; All those 65 years of age and over; and adults aged 16 to 65 years in a clinical risk group should each receive one dose.
(Lead image: Swansea Bay NHS)
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