People in Wales will not have to make an appointment with a GP or pharmacist to have the Covid-19 vaccine, it was confirmed today.
Health Minister Vaughan Gething said that those who need the vaccine will be automatically sent appointment letters.
The vaccine will be deployed at hospital sites first and then community settings.
The Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine must be stored at very low temperatures of below minus -75ºC +/- 15ºC, which means that it cannot be transported into care homes.
The vaccine consists of two doses with four weeks between doses:
- Some protection is achieved from seven to 14 days following first dose.
- Final protection is achieved by seven days following second dose.
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.
Elderly residents in care homes and care home workers will get the vaccine first, followed by all those 80 years of age and over and health and social care workers.
They will be followed by all those 75 years of age and over, then those 70 years of age and over and aged 65 and over.
People will be sent appointments with details of the location where they will receive the vaccination, dependent on where they are on the schedule and risk.
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.
Vaughan Gething said that a Welsh Immunisation System has been developed in Wales to create appointments and automatically schedule second doses, send appointment letters and record vaccinations for every COVID-19 vaccine given.
He said however that storing and transporting the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine was “challenging” – in particular its need for storage at very low temperatures of below minus -75ºC +/- 15ºC.
Two specialist sites have been identified as appropriate delivery sites for the vaccine and local Health Boards will then collect the vaccines directly from the two sites.
The said that NHS organisations in Wales had undertaken Wales-wide simulation exercises to test their distribution and storage arrangements and to ensure they can get effective vaccine safely to every part of Wales.
On 26 November, the end to end logistics for the Pfizer vaccine from ultra-low temperature central storage to receipt by the end user was tested across NHS Wales as part of a “dummy simulation exercise”.
“This year has seen huge challenges for us all,” Vaughan Gething said.
“The constraints placed on our everyday lives have been difficult to bear and it is with great anticipation that we welcome the news that vaccines are now beginning to become available, to save lives, protect the clinically vulnerable and enable us to begin to return to normality.
“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 COVID-19 infection, together with front line health and social care workers.
“We will be vaccinating people who are most at-risk of catching coronavirus and developing serious illnesses first, based on the recommendations from the JCVI.
“They have recommended the vaccine be offered to in the first instance to care home residents and health and social care workers, alongside people aged 80 and over.”