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Pilot of COVID-19 vaccination roll-out begins in Hywel Dda University Health Board

The first care home residents in west Wales have received the COVID-19 vaccine today (Thursday 17 December) as part of a phased and careful roll-out to care homes.

37 residents of Awel Twyi in Llandeilo received their first dose of the Pfizer-Biontech vaccine, including 108 year old Mary Keir, a former nurse and Wales’s second oldest woman.

Speaking shortly after receiving her vaccine, Mary said: “I was really happy to have the vaccine today. We’ve been waiting for it to be ready.

“Thank God for the people who have been able to get it for us. We’re very lucky. I now feel much safer and happier.”

It is planned for the vaccine to be available in other settings in coming weeks, once learnings from the care home pilot has been captured.

There had been concerns about maintaining the stability of the Pfizer / BioNtech vaccine outside hospital vaccination centres as it usually needs to be stored at minus 70 degrees centigrade.

The Welsh Government has discussed at length with the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) and the vaccine’s manufacturer how to repackage and transport the vaccine without compromising the standards of safety and efficacy patients rightly expect. This meant that until now it had not been efficient to take the vaccine to care home residents.

Ros Jervis, Director of Public Health at Hywel Dda UHB, said: “Whilst today’s successful care home vaccination session is a significant moment for us here in west Wales, we are approaching the roll out to care home residents very carefully and with caution as we learn how to transport and administer this particularly tricky vaccine away from our main vaccination centre.

“We know many of our care home residents will be anxious to access the vaccine as soon as possible. This is not the start of the vaccine roll out to all care home residents yet but being a part of this pilot will put us in a good place to start once learnings from the care home pilot has been captured.”

Dr Gill Richardson, Chair of Wales’ COVID-19 Vaccine Programme, said: “The delivery of a COVID-19 vaccine to care home staff and residents has always been a priority for the Welsh Government. We have been working for months to meet the challenges of distribution and believe we have a feasible solution which we will deploy at pilot sites from Wednesday. Care home staff have been offered immunisation at Health Board centres whilst awaiting the mobile model to commence.

“We are now very confident NHS hospitals can safely repackage and transport vaccine to care home without compromising its stability.”

Carmarthenshire County Council’s executive board member for health and social care, Cllr Jane Tremlett, said: “The arrival of the Covid vaccine at Awel Tywi is very welcome news and a landmark moment in what has been a very difficult year for all of us. Having this vaccine will reduce the chance of complications from coronavirus for our most vulnerable residents and is the first step in a process of reuniting loved ones with their families. We now look forward to the vaccine being rolled out in all care homes in Carmarthenshire once further supplies become available.”

As further supplies become available and additional vaccines receive MHRA approval, a staged approach will see other groups be offered the vaccine, based on risk of serious complications and deaths.

People are urged to wait to be invited, which will happen through NHS systems. Please do not ask your pharmacist or GP.