More than 35,000 vaccines have been administered to Swansea Bay’s most vulnerable residents – but when you get your first dose will depend on a number of factors.
More than 1.5 million people in Wales will get their jabs during the first stage of the roll-out, covering those over 50 and younger people with underlying conditions, and expected to run until spring.
It was reported last week that the health board had started vaccinating the over-70s, although concerns were raised that some 80-year-olds said they were still waiting for their first dose.
In a statement the health board reassured people and said: “Be assured that no-one in their 70s is taking a slot meant for anyone in their 80s”.
So, who decides who gets the vaccine and when?
Individual health boards do not decide the priority for vaccines. The UK’s Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation is responsible for outlining which groups should be given the vaccine and in what order.
Local health boards then work with the instructions given by central government on the priority groups for the vaccine rollout.
Age is the biggest factor that is taken into consideration. A letter sent to every home in Swansea Bay in January  said: “The people who are most at risk of catching coronavirus and developing serious illnesses will get the vaccine first.
“This includes people living in care homes; the over 80s and frontline health and care workers”.
In a statement released online, Swansea Bay University Health Board explained why younger age groups were being vaccinated before some in older age categories had received their first dose.
“Rather than wait for one group to be finished and then move on to the next, we want to speed things up by vaccinating groups in tandem where we can, and where we have capacity to do so,” the statement added.
“GPs are responsible for vaccinating people over 80 on their lists, and these vaccinations are happening in surgeries or in community buildings (with sessions managed by surgeries) or in people’s homes if they are housebound.
“People in their 70s are being vaccinated in the Mass Vaccination Centres, and the health board is managing this particular part of the vaccination programme,” it said.
Therefore, the health board believe that inviting the over 70s to the mass vaccination centres “speeds things up and gets the vaccine into the arms of vulnerable older people more quickly”.
Why aren’t other key workers like teachers, police officers and shop workers being vaccinated?
Doctors, nurses and carers working in frontline health and care services in Swansea Bay are included in the stage one vaccination programme but there is no indication when other key workers might get their first doses.
The decision will be taken at government level and it likely to come in the second phase of vaccinations, which will be underway from the spring if the first phase continues at the current pace.
UK Government Education Secretary Gavin Williamson said recently that he thought school staff should be a “top priority” in the second phase and Home Secretary Priti Patel said discussions were ongoing to move “police, fire and frontline workers” to the head of the queue.
The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation will announced its plans for the next phase in due course.
Swansea Bay University Health Board said that plans to ensure the clinically extremely vulnerable, of any age, are vaccinated are “well underway”.
What order are people being vaccinated in the first stage of the roll-out (until spring)?
Please note: There is some double counting of general populations and health and social care workers across different groupings.
- People living in a care home for older adults and their staff carers (40,000 people in Wales)
- All those 80 years of age and older and frontline health and social care workers (326,000 people in Wales)
- All those 75 years of age and over (127,000 people in Wales)
- All those 70 years of age and over and people who are extremely clinically vulnerable (also known as the “shielding” group) (253,000 people in Wales)
- All those 65 years of age and over (166,000 people in Wales)
- All individuals aged 16 years to 64 years with underlying health conditions, which put them at higher risk of serious disease and mortality (338, 000 people in Wales)
- All those 60 years of age and over (126,000 people in Wales)
- All those 55 years of age and over (151,000 people in Wales)
- All those 50 years of age and over (163,000 people in Wales)
The priority for vaccinating the remaining population, estimated to be just over one million people, will be determined over the coming months.