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Vaccine roll-out ‘within days’

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Vaccination will start in a matter of days: Says Dr Frank Atherton, Wales' Chief Medical Officer

THE FIRST COVID-19 vaccine has been given the go-ahead and the roll-out across Wales will start within a matter of days, the Chief Medical Officer announced on Tuesday, December 2.

The Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) has now authorised the first vaccine as safe and effective on the basis of detailed independent expert review of evidence from large scale clinical trials.

The Pfizer Biontech vaccine has become the first to receive MHRA clearance in the UK and 40 million doses of the vaccine will shortly be available for delivery across the UK, with Wales getting its allocation based on population.

The effects of the vaccine may not be seen nationally for many months and the advice on keeping Wales safe remains the same for everyone; keep contacts with other people to a minimum, keep a 2 metre distance from others, wash hands regularly, wear a face covering where required and avoid touching surfaces others have touched, wherever possible.

Approval from the MHRA is the first step of Wales’ roll-out plan, which has seen preparations on-going since May. There are still a number of stages which need to happen before the vaccine reaches those in highest need and is ready for use, but this process is expected to happen over the next week.

These stages include:

  • The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) finalising and publishing their guidance for the whole of the UK
  • Finalising training materials for staff and patient information leaflets
  • Training of experienced immunisers for this particular vaccine
  • Final legal frameworks to allow registered health professionals to administer the vaccine to patients need to be authorised by each Health Board in Wales.
  • The vaccine – which needs to be administered in 2 doses – will initially be prioritised and available for those aged 80 and over, care home staff and residents and those working within health and social care.

Pfizer Biontech vaccine needs to be stored at ultra-low temperatures. These centres have already been decided by Health Boards and are in the process of being stood-up.

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.

Individuals in the priority groups for a COVID-19 vaccine will receive an invitation from their employer or health board providing information about the COVID-19 vaccines, telling them where to go and what to do on the day of their appointment.

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

There are plans in place for people who are housebound and for care homes to be vaccinated as soon as safely possible, with the approved vaccine being safely taken to them using a mobile service, once cleared for this purpose.

The development process for coronavirus vaccines has been as stringent as any other but the process in the face of the pandemic has been sped up by prompt, world-wide funding and a reduction in paperwork. The length of the trials have not been shortened, and the usual safety measures remain in place.

Mark Drakeford: Vaccine is ‘a glimmer of light’

The vaccine will not be mandatory and people will be able to choose whether they take up the vaccine or not. Information will be provided to people before vaccination to reassure them about patient safety and robust consent processes will be in place.

The Chief Medical Officer for Wales, Dr Frank Atherton, said: “It is fantastic to finally say that the first COVID-19 vaccine has been given the green light. We know now that we have a safe and effective vaccine for use across the UK – this is the positive news I and so many across the country have been waiting for.

“All our NHS organisations across Wales have embraced the challenge presented to them and are at the advanced stages of planning for the arrival of a vaccine. We have tested distribution and storage arrangements to ensure we can get vaccine safely to every part of Wales.

“There’s still a few stages we need to work through but once all these safeguards are in place, vaccination can begin. There will only be relatively small amounts of the vaccine at first, those who have been advised as most needing the vaccine first, through approved delivery mechanisms. A full announcement around the timetable for roll-out in Wales will follow in the next few days.”

The First Minister, Mark Drakeford, said: “Today’s news is a small glimmer of light at the end of what has been a long and dark tunnel.

“We know some people within our communities are much more at risk than others from the serious complications of COVID-19, which is why the new vaccine is being prioritised to protect them first.

“Whilst these first doses are given at fixed sites and occupational settings, and to protect our NHS and social care services, we must all continue to do our bit to prevent the spread of coronavirus: regular hand washing, social distancing, and wearing a face covering where required to protect yourself and others.”

Andrew RT Davies MS – the Shadow Minister for Health said: “This is positive news in the battle against Covid but, as ever, the devil is in the detail of delivery.

“And so, today the Health Minister must today address a number of vital issues including:

  • The ability of NHS Wales to start the vaccination process and when this will happen
  • How many doses will be available to Wales in the first tranche and how they will be distributed
  • Who the first recipients will be
  • How, when other vaccines become available, NHS Wales will cope with the different procedures

“It will also require a strong public health campaign around take up of the vaccine.

“The people of Wales need this information to give them some confidence in how the programme will be handled here.”

Mr Davies’ remarks allude to one substantial issue regarding the vaccine’s distribution.

Both Wales and Scotland have a higher proportion of their respective populations in vulnerable groups. However, thus far, the UK Government has targeted Covid support on a per-head basis and not by need.

Vice-chair of the COVID-19 Vaccine Programme Board, Richard Roberts from Public Health Wales, said: “It is a significant achievement that only 9 months after WHO announced the global pandemic that we now have the first safe and effective vaccine available for use in Wales, and other vaccines to follow.

“Everyone has been preparing for months to deliver the COVID-19 vaccine programme, and it is very exciting that we will be able to begin, once the final steps have been put in place so that the programme can be delivered safely.”

Health

Helping to deliver clinical services to the people of Ceredigion

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HYWEL Dda University Health Board (UHB) has published its Research and Innovation Strategy, which will help deliver clinical services to the people of Carmarthenshire, Ceredigion and Pembrokeshire.

The strategy, which is part of Hywel Dda UHB’s long-term health and care strategy, A healthier Mid and West Wales: Our Future Generations Living Well, seeks to improve the profile, quality and quantity of research and innovation activity within Hywel Dda UHB.

Additionally, while the COVID-19 pandemic has had devastating impact on communities across mid and west Wales, it demonstrated the vital link between research, innovation, and decision making at every level of the health care system. This includes the immediate importance of translating research and innovation into health benefits.

The Research and Innovation Strategy will focus on setting the direction and committing to the delivery of practical steps to move the health board’s research, development, and innovation agenda forward. This will be achieved through four strategic goals:

  • Improve the quality and impact of activities.
  • Invest in staff and facilities to encourage the development of a virtuous funding cycle.
  • Grow research and innovation activity in areas of strength and opportunity.
  • Develop strong and effective partnerships with academic, healthcare, industry and research organisations.

Leighton Phillips, Director for Research, Innovation and University Partnerships for Hywel Dda UHB, said: “Our vision is to produce and collaborate in high quality health and care research and innovation, to improve services and health outcomes for our public, patients and staff. This strategy details how we aim to improve our research and innovation capabilities, which will have a direct benefit on the communities we serve in the three counties.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has shown just how critical research and innovation is to deal with the worst public health crisis of our time. Excellent research and innovation contribute to improved health outcomes, because it embeds a culture of the highest standards of health and care delivery, underpinned by evidence and by attracting high quality employees.

“Implementing this strategy will be done in collaboration with a wide variety of partners, from our existing funders, local authorities and Welsh Government, to private sector organisations and industry, and the health board’s clinical and managerial teams.”

If you wish to review the strategy or discuss it further with the research and innovation team, please email HDd.Research-Development@wales.nhs.uk.

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Health

Council provides feminine hygiene products to local communities

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CEREDIGION COUNTY COUNCIL in partnership with local community groups and organisations, and through funding from Welsh Government’s Period Dignity Scheme, are ensuring that women and girls have access to feminine hygiene products.

A number of local groups and organisations will receive a stock of feminine hygiene products which are available to be distributed to individuals facing hardship within our communities.

Ceredigion County Council’s aim is to ensure that tampons, sanitary towels, or sustainable alternatives are available for women and girls from low income households in Ceredigion who cannot afford them.

Local community support groups and organisations have a wealth of knowledge of their local areas, and will be able to support those in need through ensuring they receive these products at this particularly challenging time.

To find out which groups or organisations hold a stock in your local area, please contact porthygymuned@ceredigion.gov.uk. 

To learn more about other grants and assistance available to those facing hardship, go to the benefits section on the Council’s website: http://www.ceredigion.gov.uk/resident/coronavirus-covid-19/benefits/.

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Health

Bronglais Hospital has welcomed a new Consultant Colorectal Surgeon

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Mr Simone Sebastiani

A NEW consultant colorectal surgeon has been welcomed into a new post at Bronglais Hospital, Aberystwyth, meaning that patients will no longer have to travel long distances to receive operations.

After seeing a job advert for his posting early on in 2020, Mr Sebastiani came to visit the hospital and later joined Hywel Dda University Health Board in January 2021 as part of the clinical team at the Ceredigion hospital.

Mr Sebastiani said: “I was really impressed with the quality of all of the professionals working in Bronglais Hospital. Also, after hearing that the patients had to travel for over an hour in order to have their cancer operations, I felt that I could help them to receive colorectal service locally.”

Maria Battle, Chair at Hywel Dda Health Board said: “It is our pleasure to welcome Mr Sebastiani to the Team at Bronglais. We are delighted he has joined us. This is a big step forward for services in Mid Wales. We are fortunate to have such a strong team and Mr Sebastiani will contribute to providing a more comprehensive and united service.”

Originally from Rome, Italy, Mr Sebastiani studied medicine at the University of La Sapienza in the city where he graduated with full marks in 2008. He then started his surgical training in Rome, rotating between a university and rural hospital.

Through the Italian training programme, which allowed a trainee to spend 18 months abroad, Mr Sebastiani spent six months in Belgium working in one of the biggest centres in Europe for laparoscopic liver resection and liver transplant. In moving to the UK for his final year in training and qualifying in 2015, he became a middle grade in colorectal surgery in Luton and more recently in 2019 he moved to Plymouth for a fellowship in laparoscopic colorectal surgery where he worked as a locum consultant.

“I liked the idea of helping to reinstate the service and I believe there is incredible potential for development here at Bronglais, and I wanted to be part of it.”

Mr Sebastiani moved to Ceredigion county in December 2020 with his wife, also from Rome, who is a nurse also working at Bronglais Hospital.

“We like it here. It is small and quiet, but in a nice way. There is the sea and the mountains, so plenty of things to do and places to go.”

Philip Kloer, Medical Director and Deputy CEO at Hywel Dda Health Board said: “We are delighted to welcome Mr Sebastiani here at Bronglais. We have first class facilities at Bronglais Hospital which are improving all the time and Mr Sebastiani’s knowledge and experience will help us to continue strengthening our acute surgical service for our patients at the hospital.”

For regular updates and roles which may interest you or someone you know, follow the University Health Board: on Facebook and Twitter @HywelDdaJobs and on LinkedIn at: www.linkedin.com/company/hywel-dda-university-health-board, or by visiting: https://hduhb.nhs.wales/jobs/working-for-us/

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