Jez Hemming, local democracy reporter
Betsi Cadwaladr health board has said “don’t call them, we’ll call you” to people swamping GP surgeries with requests for the new Covid-19 vaccine.
The BioNtech/Pfizer jab was launched in Wrexham on Tuesday with frontline health care staff first to get the inoculation.
The publicity generated by the launch of the vaccine has brought a surge in people contacting their GPs trying to get a shot of it, which is jamming up switchboards with expectant patients.
However health bosses have moved quickly to remind people the immunisation campaign is not being coordinated by family doctors and the health board will contact those due the jab when the time is right.
Betsi Cadwaladr assistant eastern area medical director Dr Jim McGuigan said a plan is already in place to contact each vaccination group in turn.
He said: “The plan is that there’s already an appointment centre set up and everyone will be sent an appointment.
“There will be huge numbers of people and the team is being set up at pace. I would imagine by the end of January everyone over the age of 75 and residents in care homes will have been vaccinated or received their appointment.
“That of course depends on successful approval of the new Oxford/Astra Zeneca vaccine by the MHRA.”
Care home residents will currently have to wait until that next vaccine, developed by Oxford University and Astra Zeneca, is approved.
That is because the fragility of the BioNtech/Pfizer jab means it needs to be transported deep frozen between -70C and -80C and can only last a maximum of five days when thawed.
It is also stored in boxes of 195 vials containing five doses in each, which means they have to be diluted and split into individual jabs before they can be dispensed.
When all the vaccination centres are up and running, care home staff and frontline healthcare staff will be immunised first along with those over 80 years of age.
Those aged between 75 and 79 will be immunised next, followed by 70-74 year-olds. The following priorities then apply:
- 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 (priority to be determined)
The Oxford/Astra Zeneca vaccine can be stored in individual doses and in a fridge between 2C and 8C, making it easier to transport to care homes.
It is possible the British vaccine could win approval from the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) before the New Year but is expected to be available for vaccinations from early January.
The UK Government has ordered 100m doses of the jab, with Wales getting its proportionate share, which would ramp up what is the biggest mass vaccination programme in this country’s history.
The first 975 doses of the BioNtech/Pfizer vaccine arrived in Wrexham on Monday and 250 were dispensed on the first day, with more expected to arrive by the end of the week.