Wales’ chief medical officer says the government is “currently exploring ways” to get the vaccine to residents of care homes in the country
The Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine for COVID-19 “cannot” be delivered to care homes within Wales at this stage, despite this demographic being a priority group for receiving the vaccine.
The health minister for Wales, Vaughan Gething, has said that this was a result of the need to store the coronavirus vaccine at very low temperatures; at -70C (-94F).
In a written statement, Mr Gething said: “We have been exploring suitable options for initial deployment of this vaccine, in line with the JCVI advice, bearing in mind the constraints associated with its characteristics and the implications for delivery to all groups.”
“In practical terms at this stage we cannot deliver this vaccine to care homes.”
This comes after the United Kingdom has become the first country in the world so far to approve the vaccine from Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 to be used. The vaccine has been given the go-ahead by the health regulator MHRA and will be rolled out from early next week.
Dr Atherton added: “We are currently exploring ways in which we could try to get vaccines to those residents of care homes – certainly the healthcare staff and social care staff will be a very high priority – and we’re looking for ways to work around that.”
“But it is technically quite difficult to achieve that given that we have numerous care homes around the country and the model for delivering this particular vaccine, the Pfizer vaccine, requires a small number of vaccination sites.”
He said the jab would initially have to be delivered from a “small number of sites”.
“I can’t give you an exact date or a timeframe but we are working through that process as quickly as we can because those elderly residents are one of our highest priorities.”
Dr Gill Richardson, co-chair of the COVID-19 Vaccine Programme Board, echoed this.
“We will be prioritising those that we can safely deliver an effective vaccine to,” she told the news conference.
This comes after residents of care homes in the country, as well as their carers will be first in the nation to receive the Pfizer vaccine against the coronavirus in the UK, it has now been confirmed.
“At the very beginning, in the first week of immunisation, we’ll be bringing people to the vaccine and that will include care home staff.”
“And then as we learn more about the vaccine – and we are all learning at a UK level – it’s very much hoped that a mobile model can be developed so that we can safely deploy to care homes without putting care home residents at risk of bringing them to a centre unnecessarily.”
Those who do receive the vaccine will be receiving a credit card-sized immunisation card from NHS Wales.
This new card will contain the name of the vaccine and the date of immunisation, as well as the batch number for each of the doses of the vaccine given.
The immunisation cards will act as a reminder for the second vaccine dose and for the type of vaccine given, as well as providing any details of how to report any side effects.