Main image: Care home manager Julie Edwards, 56, from Cimla, Neath, was the first person to receive the Pfizer BioNTech Covid vaccination at Margam Orangery on Monday, January 11th from nurse Joy Watts.
The Swansea Bay Covid-19 vaccination programme received a major boost this week when The Margam Orangery Mass Vaccination Centre (MVC) in Margam Park opened its doors.
The centre will be open for a limited number of days in its first week. It will then build its operation to deliver upwards of 500 doses of vaccine per day, to help safeguard the health of residents in Neath Port Talbot and across the Swansea Bay region.
Vaccinations will be by invitation only. People will be contacted by letter or phone when it is their turn to be given their vaccination at hospital, at their surgery, where they live, or at one of the Margam, Gorseinon or Bay Field Hospital vaccination centres.
Welcoming the latest progress, Dr Keith Reid, Swansea Bay University Health Board’s Director of Public Heath, said: “Margam Orangery, together with the other mass vaccination centres at Bay Field Hospital on Fabian Way which opened before Christmas and Canolfan Gorseinon, which is due to open soon, will allow us to further step up our vaccination programme, which is already off to a good start.
“Vaccines are being given in order of a nationally agreed vulnerability criteria, and we aim to have vaccinated people in the top four priority groups by mid-February. We are asking everyone to be patient while we work through the delivery based on this, as quickly as possible. Please do not attend a vaccination centre without an appointment.
“Whilst this programme provides a reason for real hope, it is essential that we continue to control the spread of this virus and that everyone follows the rules. Please minimise your contact with others, don’t mix with people you don’t live with, don’t visit people in their homes. Wash your hands, wear a face-covering in indoor public places and keep a minimum of two metres from others."
The Orangery was chosen as a mass vaccination centre after a number of potential sites were carefully scrutinised. It was the site in Neath Port Talbot which stood out as the best able to provide all the facilities needed, including accessibility, open space, car parking, size and safety considerations.
Cllr. Rob Jones, Leader of Neath Port Talbot Council said: “Margam Park has long been a site of historical importance and is now set to play another pivotal role in the story of Neath Port Talbot with The Orangery becoming a mass vaccination centre for people in the county borough.
“As a council we are doing everything we can to support the fight against this virus and have been working closely with the Health Board and Swansea Council to help facilitate the mass vaccination programme across the Swansea Bay region. I’m delighted the programme is underway, we are proud to play a part in it.
“The Orangery will play a crucial role, with tens of thousands of doses of the vaccine set to be delivered there over the coming months. In the meantime, it is absolutely crucial that we all remain vigilant and continue to follow the public health advice on handwashing, social distancing and face coverings over the coming months.”
Delivering this vital facility within a very short timescale has required multiple agencies to work closely, utilising varying expertise to achieve this common goal. NPT Council staff undertook a range of preparatory works to ensure that The Orangery was ready to deliver vaccinations, with support from Orangery Staff, Legal Services, Education and Leisure Services, Emergency Planning and the Health and Safety Section.
The Margam Vaccination Centre is staffed by Swansea Bay University Health Board staff, agency nurses, volunteers and 10 RAF personnel who serve with RAF Central Band, RAF Regiment Band and the RAF Salon Orchestra, all of which are London based. The RAF service men and women helped set up the MVC on Saturday and are now undertaking non-clinical duties, including greeting patients, booking in and ensuring patient flow.
There are two vaccination pods within the Orangery enabling 20 people to be vaccinated at a time. There are 10 chairs per pod. The whole process from checking in to leaving takes only around half an hour. Patients must wait 15 minutes after vaccination to ensure they are feeling well.
Phylippa Thomas-Dyer, 56, an interim matron at Singleton Hospital, also received her Covid vaccination on Monday. Currently shielding with her husband, who has cancer and is undergoing chemotherapy treatment, she said she is frustrated by the amount of people who still don’t seem to take the virus seriously:
“It’s been quite a tough time. I am trying to protect my husband,” she said.
“It is a huge relief to have the vaccination and hopefully there is light at the end of the tunnel now.
“But people still need to stick to the rules and understand what’s going on.
“It’s very frustrating for me to see that people aren’t taking it seriously.”
Julie Edwards, 56, from Cimla, Neath, manager of the Brynsiriol Nursing Home in Briton Ferry, was the first person to be vaccinated at the Orangery by nurse Joy Watts. She said: “We got hit hard (by the virus), so it’s a relief to have the vaccination.
“It’s been awful for everybody, every care home and every hospital.
“My advice to others is just get the vaccination done. It’s the only way we are going to see the end of this. It’s got to be done.”
Jordan Williams, 31, from Clydach, Swansea, works in a secure children’s home and was among the first 20 people to be vaccinated at the Orangery. He said: “I feel fine about having it. We need to try to get some normality back.
“It (the virus) did come through our setting and we seem to have come through it, but this vaccination is providing us with reassurance.”
By the end of January, every household in the region will receive a letter outlining details of how the vaccination is being made available, getting your vaccination appointment and the agreed order in which people will receive the vaccine. Regular updates will also be published on The Swansea Bay University Health Board website: www.sbuhb.nhs.wales.