NHS plan to help people in the north of Wales get booster jabs during bus driver strike
Richard Evans, local democracy reporter
The NHS says it is putting plans in place to help vulnerable people across the north of Wales get their booster jabs during the bus driver strikes.
Bus drivers working for Arriva are currently striking whilst campaigning for the same pay as their colleagues in north west England.
But COVID booster jabs, which can increase immunity up to 95%, are currently being given to those with certain medical conditions and the over 50s – with the over 40s also announced.
But at a Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board meeting today, executive director of nursing Gill Harris updated board members on the booster jab’s roll-out.
Board member Cheryl Carlisle, Conwy County Council’s cabinet member for social care and housing, asked if the bus strike was increasing cancellations as people struggled to reach appointments.
Mrs Harris responded: “We are working with local authority partners on what we can do to mitigate the impact of any Arriva action.
“So we are engaged with that, and a plan is being pulled together. I haven’t seen the final plan yet, but I have seen an update saying very clearly that we are involved in that.”
Cllr Cheryl Carlisle said Conwy County Council were also trying to organise transport for those who relied on buses.
Briefing board members, Mrs Harris revealed, as of 17 November, Betsi has given 1,209,209 vaccines in the north of Wales, including 506,826 second doses and 151,569 booster shots.
Just over 11,000 NHS staff in the north of Wales have received their third vaccine.
Mrs Harris added: “I would want to take this opportunity to encourage people to step forward for their second and third (jabs) and booster doses and let us know if there is a problem.”
“We are keen for everyone to have access to the vaccines.”
The board heard how the vaccine booster programme started on September 13 with immunosuppressed people being booked for their third doses. The first round of care homes booster doses was also completed in October, and the NHS maintains it is working closely with its partners to reach hard to reach people. Children aged 12-15 are being invited by letter, and walk-in appointments are also available.
But the booster is primarily given as the Pfizer vaccine and so cannot be easily given in all settings due to its storage. And the number of GP surgeries able to administer the jab has been reduced from 98 to 15.
Board member Clare Budden asked why Pfizer was the preferred vaccine, despite it being the most difficult to administer and not available at most GP surgeries.
Mrs Harris said Pfizer was most available and added there was also some Moderna vaccine and that there were conversations about the AstraZeneca vaccine being given to some people at home.
It was also revealed that changes to mass vaccination centre availability has led to reduced capacity. There were also concerns raised about travelling distances to centres – as well as queue management.