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Vaccination newsletter 17th of March 2021

Close up of a vial labelled Covid vaccine held between two fingers on a gloved hand.

Welcome to the latest edition of our weekly newsletter, 17th of March 2021, which brings you up to date with where we are with the roll out of the Covid vaccines across Swansea and Neath Port Talbot.

It’s an extremely busy time for the vaccination programme with lots of vaccinations taking place in both GP practices and Mass Vaccination Centres as we move down through the priority groups. We also know there is understandable concern over vaccine safety following the reports coming out of Europe, so we are working hard to provide information and reassurance.

So, without further ado, let’s get cracking on this week’s update.

Latest figures

Please note: Figures correct as of 1pm on Wednesday, March 17th, 2021. These figures are for the Swansea Bay University Health Board area, not the whole of Wales.

1st dose: 139,027

2nd dose: 36,863

Doses given in GP practices (first and second doses): 52,539

Running total (1st and 2nd doses): 175,890

Latest news

Clotting concerns around the Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID vaccine News reports about European countries which have halted the roll out of this particular vaccine or certain batches of it will naturally be causing concern. This is one of the two vaccines used by our health board and in the NHS across Wales and the UK. You may be left wondering if it’s still safe to have it. The answer is most definitely yes. The Welsh Government, UK drug regulator the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), European Medicines Agency and World Health Organization continue to recommend the vaccine for use. The current evidence is that the risk posed to your health should you catch COVID is far higher than any potential risk from vaccine side effects.

While experts in these bodies are reviewing evidence from those countries which have reported blood clots in people who have had the vaccine, the current data suggests the two things are not connected.

There is no evidence that the vaccine causes or increases the risk of blood clots, also known as pulmonary embolism, deep vein thrombosis (DVT) or thrombocytopenia in any defined age group, gender, batch or in any particular country.

Out of 11 million doses given across the EU and UK, around 37 cases of blood clots have been reported. This is lower than the number we would expect to see. In fact more than twice that number of blood clot events would normally be reported over three months in an average year in the Swansea Bay area, which has a far smaller population of 390,000.

The Welsh Government, Public Health Wales and NHS Wales are working with other agencies to monitor vaccine safety and will keep this issue under close review. People’s safety will always come first.

Missed appointments Unfortunately we have seen a slightly higher than expected rate of people not attending their vaccination appointments and we believe this may be due to concerns over the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine.

We urge everyone who is invited to take up the offer of vaccination, as this is one of the ways we will get out of this pandemic. But we understand that some people may not be able to attend their appointment due to illness or commitments or because that is their choice. So we kindly ask that if you are not going to be attending an appointment for vaccination you let us know as soon as possible by phoning 01792 200492 or 01639 862323 between 9am and 5pm Monday to Saturday or emailing: sbu.covidbookingteam@wales.nhs.uk  IF your appointment is at one of our Mass Vaccination Centres or on the Immbulance mobile vaccination unit.

If you cannot attend a vaccination appointment at your GP surgery, contact the practice to let them know.

We understand that a high volume of calls to the health board over the past couple of days has led to people experiencing delays in getting through and we apologise for this.

We are now putting measures in place to ensure waiting times are reduced.

Where are we? With so much going on in what is a very complicated roll out it can be easy to lose sight of how far we have come since vaccinations for the general population began just two months ago.

So here are a few headlines to bring you bang up to date:

  • We’re ahead of schedule: Thanks to the immense work of our health board and GP teams and good vaccine supply we are on course to meet the mid-April milestone for the offer of the first dose to all those in categories 1-9 (ages 50 and above and other priorities), and are currently ahead of schedule. As always we are dependent on the supply of vaccine but we hope that we will start inviting those in the last age group (aged 50-54) for a vaccination within the next two weeks.  If you’re still waiting, don’t despair. We are vaccinating across groups 6, 7 and 8 now (so ages 55 to 64 and those with underlying health conditions, eligible unpaid carers, people with learning disabilities and serious mental illness.) Vaccinating across a number of different groups means that we can vaccinate people more quickly and makes us more efficient as we are using our centres seven days a week. In the last four weeks and three days we have vaccinated around 90,000 people. That’s the same number as we did in the first 10 weeks of the programme.
  • 60% of care home residents have had both doses: This is faster than the rest of Wales.
  • Community pharmacies coming on board: Five so-called pathfinder pharmacies will start giving the vaccinations over the next few weeks as part of our ongoing efforts to bring the vaccines closer to those who would otherwise struggle to get to a Mass Vaccination Centre. We’ll have more on this in next week’s newsletter.
  • We’re halfway through group 6: There are almost 44,000 patients in this group and we’ve vaccinated more than 22,000. But if you haven’t heard don’t worry. You’ll be contacted by letter or text in the next 10 days if your appointment will be at one of our Mass Vaccination Centres. This includes those unpaid carers who have filled in the online form. GPs are also issuing appointments. Some practices will get through their group 6 vaccinations faster than others as they have smaller patient groups. We are putting on some additional clinics at our Mass Vaccination Centres next week focussing particularly on those in group 6 and unpaid carers so if you are registered with a practice who are not vaccinating group 6 patients then please wait to be contacted by us.  So far more than 3,000 unpaid carers have registered using our online form.  Some carers who completed the form will be invited by their GP practice.  Between us, we will ensure that you are vaccinated as quickly as possible.  
  • Counting down to completion of some second doses: Those in groups 1 to 4 who have had the Pfizer vaccine should have all received their second doses by the end of this month. People over 80 who had their first dose of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine at their GP surgery will start to be recalled for their second doses in the next two weeks. You don’t need to contact the surgery, they will contact you. Remember, there is a longer interval between the first and second doses of the Oxford vaccine (up to 12 weeks) as research shows this makes it more effective.
  • No one left behind: If you’re 60 or over and are concerned that you haven’t yet been invited for your first dose, you can contact us on 01792 200492 or 01639 862323 between 9am and 5pm Monday to Saturday or email: sbu.covidbookingteam@wales.nhs.uk

Starring role for our Immbulance Go to the BBC iPlayer if you didn’t see our Immbulance on The One Show on Monday evening. Watch from 03:38 minutes in.

You’ll see how the mobile vaccination unit is putting smiles on the faces of people who’ve been anxiously waiting for the COVID vaccination.

Studio guest Fiona Bruce even told hosts Alex Jones and Michael Ball she hoped her vaccination would be as much fun!

 

That’s all for this week. Many thanks for reading.

We’ll catch up again next week.

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