Health ministers in all parts of the UK have been releasing details about how the coronavirus vaccine will be rolled out after it was approved for use in the UK.
The vaccination programme will begin next week after it was announced a Covid-19 vaccine from Pfizer/BioNTech was approved by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) for use in the UK.
It means the UK is the first place in the world to have a vaccine approved and ready to go.
The roll-out would be done on a four-nations approach with the same process in all parts of the UK.
Wales’ health secretary Vaughan Gething said: “Our intent is to vaccinate as many eligible people as possible, as swiftly as possible, safely, and with minimal vaccine waste.
“We will start with those groups most at risk of serious illness or death from Covid19 infection, together with front line health and social care workers.”
Wales’ chief medical officer, Dr Frank Atherton, said the vaccine would be delivered to two sites in Wales for distribution.
UK government cabinet minister Matt Hancock said: “Now we can say ‘when’ this vaccine is rolled out, things can get better,” he told BBC Breakfast. “We will start that process next week.
“What this means is that we start rolling it out next week for our most vulnerable to coronavirus. You need two jabs, 21 days apart.
“After that we will start protecting people. It will help us all get back to normal and back to all the things that we love.”
Mr Hancock said that next week there will be 800,000 vaccinations arriving in the UK, more will be manufactured and the roll out will depend on the speed of the vaccine being produced, adding things would get better by the spring of 2021.
“The goal will be to vaccinate through the NHS, right across the UK as rapidly as the company can manufacture,” he said. “We will have the bulk of the roll out in the new year.
“People will be contacted by the NHS when it is their turn. I urge people very strongly to come forward.
“There will be three modes of delivery right across the UK. I spoke to my devolved colleagues on Wednesday morning and we are doing this on a UK basis, right across the whole of the UK at the same time.
“The first mode of delivery will be hospitals themselves as they have the facilities to store the vaccine at -60°C. The second is that we will set up vaccination centres, big centres like the Nightingale hospitals. The third is a community model with the support of GPs and pharmacists to be able to get it out to where people are.
“That is harder because of how the vaccine has to be stored but we will be using these three models in order to reach people.”
In Wales, 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. You are 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.
Mr Gething said that both the Pfizer and Oxford vaccines, which the UK is hoping will be approved soon, require a two dose schedule with four weeks between doses.
“Protection is achieved by seven days following the second dose, although some protection will begin from seven to 14 days following the first dose.”
The Pfizer vaccine needs to be stored at -75C and two sites in Wales have been identified as hubs to store it. Health boards will collect the vaccines from the two sites. Because of the practical constraints, it won’t be possible to deliver the vaccine to care homes.
The Welsh Government will be using the advice from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation to decide who will be the first people to be vaccinated.
The order advised is:
- Older adults resident in a care home and care home workers
- All those 80 years of age and over and health and social care workers
- All those 75 years of age and over
- All those 70 years of age and over
- All those 65 years of age and over
- High-risk adults under 65 years of age
- Moderate-risk adults under 65 years of age
- All those 60 years of age and over
- All those 55 years of age and over
- All those 50 years of age and over
- Rest of the population.
The vaccine will not be mandatory and people will be able to choose whether they take up the vaccine or not.
Those receiving a COVID-19 vaccination will be given a credit card-sized NHS Wales immunisation card which will have the vaccine name, date of immunisation and batch number of each of the doses given handwritten on them.
These will act as a reminder for a second dose and for the type of vaccine, and it will also give information about how to report side effects.
The Welsh Government says: “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, Dr Frank Atherton, and Dr Gillian Richardson, co-chair of the Covid-19 Vaccine Programme Board will hold a press conference on Wednesday at 12.15pm to update on the latest coronavirus situation in Wales.
The Welsh Government said the approval from the MHRA is the first step of Wales’ roll-out plan, which has seen preparations on-going since May.
A spokeswoman said: “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 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.”