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News in brief: Manufacturer warns of new vaccine shortage

17 Apr 2021 7 minutes Read
Picture by the Welsh Government.

US pharmaceutical company Moderna, has warned of a shortage of supplies of its Covid-19 vaccine.

The vaccine is the third to be cleared for use in the UK and the first dose was administered in Carmarthenshire earlier this month.

The company says it is struggling to supply the number of doses originally ordered because of issues with increasing production at its European plant in Switzerland.

“The trajectory of vaccine manufacturing ramp-up is not linear, and despite best efforts, there is a shortfall in previously estimated doses,” Moderna said.

‘Complex’

“Vaccine manufacturing is a highly complex process and a number of elements, including human and material resources, have factored into this volatility.”

Following Moderna’s statement, the Canadian government announced that the company would be delivering only about half of its planned 1.2m doses by the end of April.

Wales is due to receive just over 3% of the 17 million doses ordered by the UK Government, and it had been hoped that the introduction of the Moderna jab would help fill the gap left by a shortage of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine.

Last month a delay in shipping five million doses of the vaccine from India to the UK was confirmed and supplies are not expected to fully recover until early summer.

A total of 100 million doses of the Oxford/AstraZeneca jab have been ordered along with 40 million Pfizer jabs.

First Minister Mark Drakeford said last week the Welsh Government planned to use Pfizer and Moderna doses to vaccinate under-30s due to evidence linking the AstraZeneca jab with an increased risk of blood clots forming.

The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency found a risk of about one in a million of dying after a blood clot after having the jab.

Mr Drakeford told the BBC’s Today programme: “What we will do is manage the supply of vaccine we’ve got. We will use AstraZeneca, where the regulator says that that is the right thing to do.

“And then we will use the other vaccines we have – the Pfizer and the Moderna vaccines – for those age cohorts where the regulator says it would be better to make an offer of that sort.”

According to the latest figures from Public Health Wales, since the start of the vaccine rollout on 8 December, 1,657, 028 people have received a first Covid jab and 574,590 have had both doses.

Photo by Louis Hansel @shotsoflouis on Unsplash

Task force calls on government to speed up reopening of indoor hospitality sector

A tourism taskforce set up by the Welsh Government, is pressing ministers to speed up plans for the reopening of the indoor hospitality sector.

The group called on the First Minister to make “a positive statement” at the next review on Covid restrictions on 22 April and urged the government to follow the lead of the English and Scottish governments in allowing the sector to welcome back customers from 17 May.

It a letter signed by the chairs of Wales’ regional tourism forums, Visit Britain and the British Tourist Authority, along with senior figures at UK Hospitality Cymru and the Wales Tourism Alliance, the group welcomed the financial support received during the pandemic but said: “Nothing can replace our ability to trade.

“We appeal with urgency for an early reopening and the positive opportunity to help you begin the economic rebuild that our great industry can help the new government to deliver in the coming months.”

At the last review of the Covid regulations, it was hinted that if infection rates in Wales remained low, indoor hospitality and other visitor accommodation could be relaxed by the end of May – but no firm date has been announced.

Pubs in England opened outdoors on 12 April but won’t open in Wales for another week and a half – on 26 April.

The Welsh Government said it was taking “a careful step-by-step approach” to avoid a third wave of coronavirus.

Covid heatmap. Photo by Clay Banks on Unsplash

Public Health Wales makes changes to pandemic reporting

Public Health Wales has changed the way it reports statistics on the coronavirus pandemic from today.

It will no longer publish a breakdown of the daily figures on Saturdays, meaning Sunday’s update will now include the data reported for the 24-hour period up to 9am on Friday, and data reported on Mondays will be for a 48-hour period up to 9am on Sunday.

“It is likely that the figures reported on Mondays will be around double the usual 24 hours figure,” Dr Robin Howe, Incident Director for the Covid-19 outbreak response at Public Health Wales, said.

“We are doing this because case numbers are now low therefore any fluctuation day-to-day can give rise to potentially misleading interpretation and we want to be focusing more on the underlying trends.

“Our surveillance team will however retain the ability to ramp back up to seven-day reporting if necessary.

According to yesterday’s figures from PHW, Swansea has the highest weekly case rate in the country at 29.2 per 100,000 people, and the highest positive test proportion at 3.3% per 100,000 tests.

The national case rate is 16.7 the test rate is 1.9%.

Cwmcarn Forest Drive. Photo by joysaphine, licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0

New partnership aims to re-open Cwmcarn visitor attraction

Saul Cooke-Black, local democracy reporter

Caerphilly council and Natural Resources Wales (NRW) are teaming up in an effort to re-open Cwmcarn Forest Drive.

The visitor attraction, which is owned and managed by NRW, has been closed since 2015 to allow for the felling of about 150,000 trees affected by the disease Phytophthora Amorum.

But NRW is looking to re-open the Forest Drive this spring, following investments to enhance facilities and for resurfacing work.

Caerphilly council is being asked to take on the operational management of the Forest Drive, as part of a collaborative arrangement with NRW.

A report coming before the council’s cabinet proposes entering into a partnership for a trial period of two years.

An admission price of £8 per car, £11 for minibuses and £25 for coaches – which includes parking fees on council operated car parks at Cwmcarn – is being proposed.

A report forecasts that the arrangement could generate a profit of £14,872, but a worst-case scenario predicts a loss of £5,128 depending on visitor numbers.

Any profits or losses would be shared equally between Caerphilly council and NRW.

“There are financial risks associated with establishing a partnership to reopen the drive and forecast budgets need to establish a realistic model of potential running costs to ensure that the partnership with NRW to reopen the Forest Drive does not create a financial liability for the authority,” a council report says.

“A trial period of two years is proposed as part of the collaboration agreement to allow a realistic time frame within which to assess the income and expenditure requirements of the site.”

The partnership would be reviewed after the two-year trial to establish whether it would be extended.

The plans would see the drive open for an eight-month season from March to October.

It is estimated the site will attract between 7,000 and 10,000 cars per year – equating to between 14,000 and 20,000 visitors- although numbers are expected to be lower in the first year due to Covid restrictions.

Cwmcarn Forest is a tourist destination which includes walking trails, cycling trails, a fishing lake and an adventure playground.

The Forest Drive, also known as the Scenic Drive, was previously a popular visitor attraction in the South East region of Wales.

Caerphilly council’s cabinet will consider allowing council officers to agree the proposed partnership with the NRW at a meeting on Wednesday.

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