Following a number of questions from constituents regarding the rollout of the vaccination programme here in North Wales, I have raised a number of questions on your behalf with Betsi Cadwaladr UHB and have received the following answers.
I will of course keep this as updated as possible as the vaccination programme progresses.
Q: Who decides who gets the vaccine?
A: Wales is working through the priority group system agreed by the Joint Committee on Vaccinations and Immunisations, as are all other UK Nations. This prioritises health and social care workers, those living in care homes, people who are clinically extremely vulnerable, and those over 80.
Q: Is there a plan to make sure the vaccination programme works?
A: The Welsh Government has published the “Vaccination Strategy for Wales” which includes the government’s intention to vaccinate all health and social care workers, those living in care homes, people who are clinically extremely vulnerable, and those over 70 by mid-February. It also explains how this will happen and where the data will be published. You can see the whole Strategy at https://gov.wales/covid-19-vaccination-strategy
Q: How will I know when its my turn to receive the vaccine?
A: When it is your turn to receive the vaccine, you will be contacted by either the health board or your GP surgery, who will offer you an appointment to receive the first dose of the vaccine. Flintshire County Council and Betsi Cadwaladr UHB will be writing to every household to provide them with more information on the rollout of the vaccine.
Q: Where will I have to go to receive the vaccine?
A: Betsi Cadwaladr UHB have set up more hospital and mass vaccination centres than any other health board in Wales. This includes a Mass Vaccination Centre in Deeside, and our very own Theatr Clwyd becoming a Local Vaccination Centre. There are also 96 GP surgeries who have offered their support to the vaccination programme, and there is a pilot to include community pharmacies. When you are offered a vaccine, you will be told where to go. For those living in a care home, or who are housebound, arrangements will be made for someone to come to you.
Q: Does the health board need any volunteers to help with giving the vaccine or arranging appointments?
A: Betsi has set up a web page specifically for people to find out how they can offer their help. This is the biggest vaccination programme Wales, or the world, has ever seen, so volunteers are warmly welcomed. Please visit https://bcuhb.nhs.wales/covid-19/covid-19-vaccination-team-returning-healthcare-professionals/ for more information.
Q: Why is the second dose now being delayed?
A: Based on advice from the Joint Committee on Vaccinations and Immunisations, and the four UK Chief Medical Officers, a delay of up to 12 weeks is allowed between doses of the vaccine. This is to ensure that as many people as possible benefit from a first dose of the vaccine.
Q: How do I find out how many vaccines have been given out already?
A: Part of the Vaccination Strategy for Wales states that Public Health Wales will publish vaccination data on a regular basis. At the moment this is only broken down by health board area, however there are hopes that the data can become more focused in the coming weeks. You can find the information on the Public Health Wales dashboard at https://public.tableau.com/profile/public.health.wales.health.protection#!/vizhome/RapidCOVID-19virology-Public/Headlinesummary
Q: Why has South Wales had more vaccines than North Wales?
A: Supply of the vaccine is being distributed according to the population size of each nation of the UK, and then each health board area. Wales as a whole has a population of around 3.1 million, with around 700,000 living the Betsi Cadwaladr health board area, and the supply of the vaccine will be distributed accordingly.
Q: Is there enough of the vaccine to go around?
A: The Welsh Government are working with the UK Government to procure enough vaccines for the UK as a whole. Each week Wales is receiving more doses of the vaccine and is distributing them to health boards to administer. Everything possible is being done to ensure that the supply of the approved vaccines continues.
Q: Is Betsi on target to vaccinate the top four priority groups by mid-February?
A: In a briefing earlier this week, the health board advised me that they have now vaccinated over 30,000 people (w/e 17.01.21) and are due to vaccinate a further 30,000 people in the w/b 18.01.21. As long as supplies being procured by the UK Government, are maintained then they are confident they will meet the target. The Secretary of State for Wales has said he can guarantee that Wales will receive the vaccines it needs to meet this target.
Q: Why is England vaccinating over 70s and Wales is still vaccinating over 80s?
A: England has now begun vaccinating over 70s, despite not having vaccinated all over 80s and care home residents. In Wales we are sticking to the JCVI priority groups and working through them. All care home residents and over 80s in North Wales, should be vaccinated by the end of January.
Q: My relative still hasn’t heard anything. Why could this be?
A: Every GP surgery in North Wales is now part of the vaccination rollout and will be offering the vaccine to their patients in the priority groups. They will be using their doses of the vaccine and contacting patients when it is their turn to receive the first dose of the vaccine.
Q: Apparently there will be delays for Betsi Cadwaladr UHB receiving the vaccine. Is this just North Wales being affected?
A: No. Other UK nations are also being affected by the delay following a batch of the Oxford AstraZeneca failing screening tests and manufacturing issues relating to the Pfizer vaccine. GPs who have been affected by the delay have been assured they will be prioritised in the next delivery.
Q: I have heard rumours that vaccines are being kept back by the Welsh Government. Why aren’t they being used?
A: The Welsh Government has confirmed that no supplies of the vaccine are being held back. In the first two weeks of January, Wales received 45,000 doses of the Oxford AstraZeneca vaccine, and by the end of last week (w/e 17.01.21) 90% of these had been administered. There are constraints on the storage and transportation of Pfizer vaccines, which are stored in two locations and then distributed to vaccination centres, based on their capacity to administer the vaccine, to ensure as little wastage as possible.