New Covid vaccine hits supply problems in the north of Wales
Jez Hemming, local democracy reporter
A health board has had to scale back immunisation plans because of a delay in delivery of more doses of the new BioNtech/Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine.
Dr Chris Stockport was reacting to claims they had not received further batches of the vaccination which was rolled out to staff in the east of Betsi Cadwaldr UHB’s region last Tuesday.
The health board was given an initial 975 doses of the vaccine and was expecting another batch towards the end of last week.
That would have supplied vaccines for front line staff in the central region, served by Ysbyty Glan Clwyd, followed by a vaccination programme for similar staff in the west, serfved by Ysbyty Gwynedd.
However it seems supply problems, with the vaccine in demand around the world, have meant those plans have had to be put back.
Dr Chris Stockport, BCUHB’s executive director of primary and community care, said: “Last week saw the start of a small scale vaccination rollout for front line healthcare staff working in high risk areas at Ysbyty Wrexham Maelor.
“It was planned that this would be followed by a similar roll out at Ysbyty Glan Clwyd starting this week. Our plans are changing due to a limited supply of the vaccine.”
Dr Stockport added: “We are prioritising the use of these vaccines using national guidance from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JVCI) in order to ensure that the current limited availability is put to the most effective use.
“Enough supply is expected over the duration of the vaccination programme to vaccinate all of the priority groups in North Wales.”
By the end of last week, more than 6,000 people had received the first dose of the vaccine across Wales.
Those receiving it will need another dose administered 28 days afterwards, giving more than 90% of recipients protection from Covid-19.
One piece of good news is the vaccine, which was thought to be too fragile to transport to care homes because of the need to keep it stored below -70C, can now be moved and deployed to care home residents, not just staff.
Welsh Government today announced a pilot scheme to immunise care home patients which will begin on Wednesday of this week, with Betsi one of the areas earmarked to trial the programme.
The UK was the first country in the world to give the green light to widescale immunisation using the BioNtech/Pfizer jab, after the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) cleared it for use 12 days ago. The United States followed suit this weekend
Many hopes are being pinned on another vaccine being developed in the UK by Oxford University and pharmaceutical giant Astra Zeneca.
The UK Government has ordered 100m doses of that vaccine and it has none of the fragility issues surrounding transport of its predecessor.
It is hoped regulators will pass it as safe some time between now and the New Year, with roll-out beginning in January.