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Coronavirus

COVID-19 booster vaccine roll out begins in Wales

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Frontline NHS staff working in North Wales have become the first people in Wales to receive their Covid-19 booster vaccines, as the programme started in Wales today (Thursday 16 September).

Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board began to offer its staff the booster vaccine just days after the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) issued its final advice about the autumn booster programme.

Cwm Taf Morgannwg University Health Board will begin its booster vaccination programme on Saturday, starting with care home residents.

Swansea Bay, Hywel Da, Aneurin Bevan, Cardiff and Vale and Powys health boards have all confirmed they will begin offering the booster vaccine to care home residents and healthcare staff from Monday (20th September).

Health Minister Eluned Morgan confirmed Wales has accepted the JCVI’s advice to offer all over 50s, frontline health and social care workers and people with underlying health conditions – people in priority groups one to nine – a booster dose of the Covid-19 vaccine.  

Booster vaccination for other adults will be considered by the JCVI at a later date.

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Letters inviting 12 to 15-year-olds to have a single dose of the Pfizer vaccine will begin to be issued next week and the first vaccines are expected to be administered from 4 October.

All vaccines will be delivered either in care homes, in mass vaccination centres, hospitals or GP surgeries. People will be advised where their vaccination will take place when invited. 

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Eluned Morgan, Minister for Health and Social Services, said: “Wales’ vaccination programme has been world leading and we have been working with the NHS to deliver the autumn booster safely and efficiently. 

“I would urge all those who are eligible for a booster take up the offer when they are called for an appointment, as there is the possibility of reduced immunity from their earlier doses of the vaccine as time passes.

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“If you haven’t had the first dose of the vaccine yet, it’s not too late. I encourage anyone who has not yet taken up their offer to do so.”

Dr Gill Richardson, deputy chief medical officer for vaccines, said: “Today, the first doses of the booster vaccine have been provided to frontline healthcare staff who look after some of our most vulnerable people as we continue to protect individuals from the virus, serious illness and the risk of hospitalisation.

“We have already seen the benefits that come from having as many people as possible vaccinated and have been preparing for this throughout the summer.  Vaccines remain our strongest defence from the virus and to maintain the levels of immunity that people have achieved.”

People across Wales are being urged to wait until they are invited to have their booster and not to contact NHS or health services to request a Covid-19 booster vaccine.

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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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