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First Minister encourages people to get the flu vaccine as he gets the jab

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This week, First Minister Mark Drakeford, got his flu vaccination and encouraged others to take up the offer this winter to help keep people safe and well.

This year will be Wales’ largest ever flu vaccination programme, with people aged 50 and over and all those eligible for a free vaccine being invited to have their jab.

The schools flu vaccine programme has also been extended this year to include all those in secondary school in years 7-11.

The Welsh Government has also extended the free flu vaccine to all primary care workers in Wales.

Those eligible for the free flu vaccine also include pregnant women and people with underlying health conditions.

The COVID booster programme will also be co-administered to those who are eligible where appropriate to do so, in an effort to improve efficiency and increase uptake of both vaccines. Both vaccines can be administered in succession without delay so there is no need to postpone either appointment once booked

First Minister for Wales, Mark Drakeford, who received his flu vaccine this week, said: “Unlike last year, we are expecting a significant amounts of flu to circulate this winter and Covid is still with us. It’s very important people take up their offer of the flu vaccine as well as the Covid booster. Data suggests this winter flu season could be 50% to 100% higher than a typical season.

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“As we have seen with COVID, vaccines play a huge role in helping to help protect us.  They are the best way to keep everyone safe and help stop the spread of the virus.

“We want to protect as many people as possible, particularly those who are most vulnerable in our community, and reduce the pressure on our NHS.”

Anne McGowan, Nurse Consultant for Public Health Wales’ Vaccine Preventable Disease Programme said: “Having a flu vaccine every year is one of the most effective ways to protect against flu.”

“Getting it is simple, and for most eligible groups is available from either their General Practice or a Community Pharmacy, with separate arrangements in place for school-age children and NHS staff.

“To help extend protection against infection it is very important to get your COVID-19 booster vaccine when offered. It is available to those eligible groups that completed their primary course of the vaccinations earlier this year.

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“COVID-19 booster vaccinations are offered by invitation at existing local mass vaccination centres. Please get yours when you are invited.”

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Coronavirus

Covid measure-avoiding cinema threatens to disobey latest closure notice – branding First Minister a ‘grinch’

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The Welsh Government issued Swansea independent cinema and food outlet Cinema & Co with an order to close on public health grounds on Friday.

Swansea Council originally issued a closure notice for the business on Thursday 18 November saying the business had not completed a COVID risk assessment, staff had no training on how to prevent transmission of COVID-19 and there was no implementation of the COVID pass scheme.

It was also noted that there was no signage advising customers to wear face coverings and there was inadequate cleaning products to reduce the spread of COVID-19.

Business owner, Anna Redfern described the Welsh Government COVID pass law as “nonsensical” and “unnecessary”.  She also refused to comply with the council’s closure notice saying

The Council took Redfern to court to enforce the closure. Ms Redfern failed to attend court, while the judge asked for an adjournment to proceedings to query the act of law that the council was using to bring the closure notice.

Prior to the new court date, the Welsh Government has decided to act itself using enforcement parts of the Coronavirus legislation for the first time.

Under the Coronavirus Act 2020, the Welsh Minsters have powers to take action against specific premises where they consider the premises to present a risk to public health.

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In a statement, the Welsh Government said: “To support Swansea Council and to protect public health, Welsh Ministers have issued a direction under the Act for the closure of Cinema & Co in Swansea.

“Recently the Local Authority identified a series of breaches of the Coronavirus Regulations at the premises.

“The premises was previously served with a notice requiring it to close due to the risk to public health.

“As the owner has chosen not to comply with this legal requirement, Welsh Ministers have taken further enforcement action.

“The Welsh Government will not be commenting further on ongoing legal proceedings.”

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Council officers attended the cinema on Friday evening to close the Castle Street business once again, with the order prohibiting anyone from entering the building unless given approval from the court, the council or the Welsh Government.

There was a strong police presence to enforce the closure, although media reports indicate a small number of protestors remained inside the building, with some of those reportedly wearing Voice of Wales branded clothing.

The controversial organisation has been supportive of Ms Redfern’s anti-COVID pass stance, but while describing itself as a media organisation it has been dogged by allegations of being a far right, racist group – something that it strongly denies.

Ms Redfern herself also denies any link to racism or extremism, saying that her “life had become totally surreal” and that she was “being acted on by so many forces out of [her] control. Some very dark.”

In a statement on social media she said: “I absolutely reject any claims that I am in any way connected to far-right groups, far-left groups or any form of racism”

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Following the most recent closure notice, signed by Welsh Government First Minister Mark Drakeford himself, Cinema & Co described the First Minister as a “grinch” and vowed to disobey the order, organising a showing of the film The Grinch Who Stole Christmas” at the cinema on Sunday 28 November at 4pm.

The sold-out event was promoted on Cinema and Co’s social media showing the face of Mark Drakeford photoshopped into the grinch, accompanied by further anti-COVID pass slogans.

It is unclear as to what, if any further action the Police, Council or Welsh Government will take should the cinema breach the latest closure notice and reopen as promised.

A crowd-funder set up by former Brexit Party & Abolish the Welsh Assembly candidate Richard Taylor, has raised over £60,000 so far.

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Books & Literature

Nurse turns to verse to express pandemic woes

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An emergency department nurse has combined his passion for nursing and writing by creating heartfelt poems inspired by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Michael Jenkins has always been enthusiastic about poetry but never focused on writing until the start of the pandemic.

He felt this was the perfect opportunity to capture the emotions of not only the nursing staff but everyone involved in the NHS.

Writing poetry also acted as a coping mechanism for Michael to get through what has been one of the toughest times in the history of the NHS.

His first poem, Give me a Break!, was shared on his Facebook page, as well as a Covid support group, where he received rave reviews and an unprecedented amount of appreciation which came as a surprise to him.

“The more poems I started to write, the more attention and shares on social media I was receiving,” Michael said.

Rebecca Price, Emergency Department matron at Morriston Hospital, in Swansea, added: “Michael really does know how to dig deep into NHS staff’s hearts and reveal their true emotions in such a pressurised environment in what has been the toughest couple of years in the history of the NHS.”

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After 18 months of concentrating on the pandemic, Michael turned his attention to other subjects within nursing, in particular by writing a poem about living with dementia.

He added: “We have so many patients coming through the ED doors with dementia but with other conditions to treat.

“It can be very difficult for trained nurses to deal with patients who unfortunately suffer with the terrible illness of dementia.”

Michael’s poem about living with dementia was shared so widely on social media that it even caught the attention of the national charity Dementia UK.

The charity was so impressed it asked Michael if it could rebrand and share the poem on its social media platforms. It has since received a huge amount of praise and shares.

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Dementia UK said: “Michael’s poem has really resonated with all people involved with dementia and has been enjoyed so much.

“We are very appreciative he has taken the time to write such a beautiful poem.”

Several of the poems have since been displayed in ED to be read and enjoyed by members of staff, as well as patients.

Michael hopes the poems can provide a boost where needed and spread some positivity.

Below are two of the poems for your enjoyment.

Give Me A Break!

Patients laugh and patients cry
Patients live, some patients die
Staff will help, Staff will care
Staff with yelp, Staff will ware

Taking its toll on every single person
Reliving the day that’s for certain
Locked down, feeling trapped with no location
Nowhere to go but work and save the population

I never signed up for this’ I read
But we can’t say that or else they’d be dead
But please just give me some space
I’m also a part of this human race

I’ll moan, I’ll cry, I’ll scream and shout
But I know I’ll carry on without a doubt
Do we want some gratitude?
Or do we need a better attitude?

I don’t know I just want some time
Is that to be such a crime?
I’ve paid my fee to work my vocation
What’s that all about?

I’ll still head off without any hesitation
But please I pray to God for goodness sake
All I’m asking for….is give me a break!

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Living with Dementia

I got told I had dementia today,
But that’s fine I’m still me!
The same old person that you sit with
To drink a hot cup of tea.

I may not remember every last detail,
Or recognise your face.
But I will sure try to imagine,
Taking me back to my favourite place.

I may get confused and anxious,
And wander round my house.
I know I shouldn’t dwell on the past,
But I really miss my spouse.

Sometimes my mind is somewhere else,
Like on holidays from years ago.
Or dreaming of better times I’ve had,
Now I must learn to go with the flow.

I am still the same human being,
With a brain inside my head
It just takes a while to think of things,
Like when should I go to bed?

Please don’t judge my shouting,
Or if I somehow make you scared
It’s just my mind playing tricks on me,
Maybe I just need to be fed!

Some company is all I need
To play my favourite game,
Then maybe next time I see you,
I will remember your lovely name.

Now I will always cherish the memories,
Of all the times we share,
Please don’t stop coming to visit,
As I know you will always care.

I am still the same old person,
Just get a little jumbled up,
Now go get me that hot cuppa,
So I can sip from my favourite cup.

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Coronavirus

Community pharmacists boost the Covid booster vaccine campaign

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The drive to deliver Covid booster vaccines across Swansea Bay as rapidly as possible has itself been boosted by community pharmacies.

All 49 GP practices in Swansea and Neath Port Talbot joined the health board to deliver the first two doses of the vaccine.

But as they are now busy delivering flu vaccines on top of their usual services, community pharmacies have stepped up to help ensure the booster is available locally as well as in the main vaccination centres.

Their involvement follows a successful pilot earlier this year which saw four of them help deliver the first two doses.

Thirteen in the Swansea area, along with Vale of Neath Pharmacy in Glynneath, have now responded to the health board’s call for expressions of interest to take part in the booster programme.

One of the first to receive their booster in a pharmacy was Nigel Godfrey (pictured above), who lives near the Vale of Neath Pharmacy.

“It was fantastic,” said Mr Godfrey. “I was working from home so I could pop down to the pharmacy on my lunch break.

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“It was local, five minutes away. A lot more convenient than having to go to one of the mass vaccination centres.

“There was no waiting, I was in and out within five minutes.

“The pharmacist put me at ease and we went into a private room. There were no problems whatsoever.”

Mr Godfrey, aged 44, is entitled to the booster because of an underlying medical condition.

“But it will also protect my friends, family and colleagues, whoever I come into contact with,” he added.

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“It’s doing the right thing, not just for myself, but also those around me and the community.”

People eligible for the booster will be contacted directly with an appointment either in one of the pharmacies or in a health board vaccination centre.

Appointments are being sent out in chronological order, at least six months after the date people received their second dose.

Six months is the threshold at which those in priority groups become eligible for the booster, not an absolute date it must be given by.

Although there are no drop-in sessions, the health board has started a reserve list for people who are aged 40 or over, who had their second dose at least six months ago.

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They must also be available to attend one of the mass vaccination centres at short notice – within two hours.

As well as the MVCs, the health board employs local vaccination centres, converted shipping containers which can be taken into communities to save people who might otherwise struggle to get to an MVC.

With the pharmacies also on board, every effort is being made to ensure as many of those who are eligible for a booster can receive it as close to their home as possible.

“However, we appreciate that will not be the same for everyone,” said Swansea Bay’s Vaccine Equity Manager, Maxine Evans.

“We send invites to people living within a certain radius of the pharmacies to begin with and, if we have slots still available, we go further out.

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“We are flexible and if people cannot get to the pharmacies because they live too far away and do not have transport, they can phone the booking office to change the appointment.

“But when we have been to the pharmacies and spoken to patients, they were really grateful and happy with the fact that it was local and easy for them to get the booster there.”

Pharmacists too say they are happy to be involved with the booster programme.

Niki Watts of Vale of Neath Pharmacy said: “We decided to take part because we believe it’s important to help the health board get the population fully vaccinated as quickly as possible.

“We are located at the heart of the community so the patients find it easy to access.

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“We have good facilities, including a nice big car park right outside so the patients don’t have to walk very far, and our own dedicated consultation rooms where the vaccinations can take place in private.”

Eligibility for booster vaccines is determined nationally. It includes all adults aged 40 and over; frontline health and social care workers; people aged 16-49 with underlying health conditions putting them at higher risk of Covid-19; adult carers; and adult household contacts, aged 16 and over of anyone who is immunosuppressed.

Top of the eligibility list are people living in residential care homes for older adults. Swansea Bay has concluded its first sweep of 70 homes in the health board area – delivering more than 1,200 boosters to residents.

For various reasons, some were unable to receive the booster when the vaccinators were present, so return visits to each of the homes are now being arranged.

Georgina Assadi, health board Covid vaccine programme assistant service manager, said many of the vaccination team had not worked in the community before.

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“It was all new to them and some were a little anxious to begin with. But they all really enjoyed it because they knew they were providing protection to the most vulnerable people,” she added.

Lead image: Nigel Godfrey is given his booster by Niki Watts of Vale of Neath Pharmacy (Image: Swansea Bay NHS)

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