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Vaccine roll-out ‘within days’

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THE FIRST COVID-19 vaccine has been given the go-ahead and the roll-out across Wales will start within a matter of days, the Chief Medical Officer announced on Tuesday, December 2.

The Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) has now authorised the first vaccine as safe and effective on the basis of detailed independent expert review of evidence from large scale clinical trials.

The Pfizer Biontech vaccine has become the first to receive MHRA clearance in the UK and 40 million doses of the vaccine will shortly be available for delivery across the UK, with Wales getting its allocation based on population.

The effects of the vaccine may not be seen nationally for many months and the advice on keeping Wales safe remains the same for everyone; keep contacts with other people to a minimum, keep a 2 metre distance from others, wash hands regularly, wear a face covering where required and avoid touching surfaces others have touched, wherever possible.

Approval from the MHRA is the first step of Wales’ roll-out plan, which has seen preparations on-going since May. There are still a number of stages which need to happen before the vaccine reaches those in highest need and is ready for use, but this process is expected to happen over the next week.

Mark Drakeford: Vaccine is ‘a glimmer of light’

These stages include:

·         The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) finalising and publishing their guidance for the whole of the UK

·         Finalising training materials for staff and patient information leaflets

·         Training of experienced immunisers for this particular vaccine

·         Final legal frameworks to allow registered health professionals to administer the vaccine to patients need to be authorised by each Health Board in Wales.

·         The vaccine – which needs to be administered in 2 doses – will initially be prioritised and available for those aged 80 and over, care home staff and residents and those working within health and social care.

Pfizer Biontech vaccine needs to be stored at ultra-low temperatures. These centres have already been decided by Health Boards and are in the process of being stood-up.

As further supplies become available and additional vaccines receive MHRA approval, a staged approach will see other groups be offered the vaccine, based on risk of serious complications and deaths.

Individuals in the priority groups for a COVID-19 vaccine will receive an invitation from their employer or health board providing information about the COVID-19 vaccines, telling them where to go and what to do on the day of their appointment.

People are urged to wait to be invited, which will happen through NHS systems. Please do not ask your pharmacist or GP.

There are plans in place for people who are housebound and for care homes to be vaccinated as soon as safely possible, with the approved vaccine being safely taken to them using a mobile service, once cleared for this purpose.

The development process for coronavirus vaccines has been as stringent as any other but the process in the face of the pandemic has been sped up by prompt, world-wide funding and a reduction in paperwork. The length of the trials have not been shortened, and the usual safety measures remain in place.

The vaccine will not be mandatory and people will be able to choose whether they take up the vaccine or not. Information will be provided to people before vaccination to reassure them about patient safety and robust consent processes will be in place.

The Chief Medical Officer for Wales, Dr Frank Atherton, said: “It is fantastic to finally say that the first COVID-19 vaccine has been given the green light. We know now that we have a safe and effective vaccine for use across the UK – this is the positive news I and so many across the country have been waiting for.

“All our NHS organisations across Wales have embraced the challenge presented to them and are at the advanced stages of planning for the arrival of a vaccine. We have tested distribution and storage arrangements to ensure we can get vaccine safely to every part of Wales.

“There’s still a few stages we need to work through but once all these safeguards are in place, vaccination can begin. There will only be relatively small amounts of the vaccine at first, those who have been advised as most needing the vaccine first, through approved delivery mechanisms. A full announcement around the timetable for roll-out in Wales will follow in the next few days.”

The First Minister, Mark Drakeford, said: “Today’s news is a small glimmer of light at the end of what has been a long and dark tunnel.

“We know some people within our communities are much more at risk than others from the serious complications of COVID-19, which is why the new vaccine is being prioritised to protect them first.

“Whilst these first doses are given at fixed sites and occupational settings, and to protect our NHS and social care services, we must all continue to do our bit to prevent the spread of coronavirus: regular hand washing, social distancing, and wearing a face covering where required to protect yourself and others.”

Andrew RT Davies MS – the Shadow Minister for Health said: “This is positive news in the battle against Covid but, as ever, the devil is in the detail of delivery.

“And so, today the Health Minister must today address a number of vital issues including:

·         The ability of NHS Wales to start the vaccination process and when this will happen

·         How many doses will be available to Wales in the first tranche and how they will be distributed

·         Who the first recipients will be

·         How, when other vaccines become available, NHS Wales will cope with the different procedures

“It will also require a strong public health campaign around take up of the vaccine.

“The people of Wales need this information to give them some confidence in how the programme will be handled here.”

Mr Davies’ remarks allude to one substantial issue regarding the vaccine’s distribution. 

Both Wales and Scotland have a higher proportion of their respective populations in vulnerable groups. However, thus far, the UK Government has targeted Covid support on a per-head basis and not by need.

Vice-chair of the COVID-19 Vaccine Programme Board, Richard Roberts from Public Health Wales, said: “It is a significant achievement that only 9 months after WHO announced the global pandemic that we now have the first safe and effective vaccine available for use in Wales, and other vaccines to follow.

“Everyone has been preparing for months to deliver the COVID-19 vaccine programme, and it is very exciting that we will be able to begin, once the final steps have been put in place so that the programme can be delivered safely.”

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Conservatives in disarray over alleged Christmas party lockdown breach

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THE CONSERVATIVE Party is investigating the attendance of senior Senedd members and staff at a Christmas party held during December’s lockdown.

Lockdown restrictions prohibit mixing with people outside your own household.

The Welsh restrictions barring such gatherings follow the basic outline of those imposed by the Conservative UK Government in December.

Those attending the drinks party included Paul Smith, the Conservative Chief of Staff at the Senedd, Darren Millar, the Party’s Chief Whip and campaign coordinator, and Preseli Pembrokeshire MS and Conservative Senedd Group Leader Paul Davies.

The Herald understands that a Labour Senedd Member who attended the Party has been suspended by the Labour Senedd Group pending its own investigation.

The Conservatives’ embarrassment at talking the talk but not walking the walk is intensified by Darren Millar’s presence at the shindig.

In May, Mr Millar led calls for Wales’ Health Minister Vaughan Gething to be sacked for eating a bag of chips in a park with one of his own children.

If the Conservative Party follows the logic of their previously stated positions, Mr Millar’s and Mr Davies’ futures look bleak indeed.

With a Senedd election only months away, the revelations have thrown the Conservatives into disarray.

If they do nothing, the Conservatives will – at the very least – face claims they are hypocrites.

If the Conservative Party acts decisively, it faces massive internal problems.

The Conservatives responded to our request for a response to our story.

Those involved stressed they did not host a Christmas Party.

The incident happened on December 8, when the above met in the members’ tea room to discuss legislation for possible inclusion in the Welsh Conservative manifesto with a Labour backbencher.

During the evening they did drink a glass or two of wine.

They stress that at no point were there more than four people in the room at any one time and that they maintained social distancing.

A joint statement from Paul Davies, Darren Millar, and Paul Smith said: “We are profoundly sorry for our actions.

“While we did not break the rules, we recognise that what was part of a day’s work would not be seen to be following the spirit of them, especially given the tough time the country has been going through.”

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Family tribute to Carole Patricia Fowler

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Carole was a teacher for 30 years at St Mary’s Catholic Primary School, Llanelli. She loved children and they loved her. 

As one of her past colleagues said: “I know she made such a difference to every child she taught.” She was very popular with staff and well respected and loved by parents. She was dedicated and conscientious, always 100% for the children. She led the music there and was always popular with her guitar accompaniments for services and concerts. 

Likewise, she was a valued member of the choir at Holy Cross Roman Catholic Church, Gendros, Swansea, where she would often accompany hymns with her guitar and gave guitar lessons to the children in the church’s Saturday Music Club. She was also a keen member of Côr Persain, Ammanford. 

She was talented, loved and in demand. A convicted and devout Catholic all her life, through good and bad.

Carole was an avid and very gifted crocheter and was always crocheting or knitting something for someone. She had been spending her time recently, during the Covid crisis, crocheting NHS teddies in scrubs and rainbows, with many given to practising nurses. Carole had recently started learning to make bobbin lace. She was also capable of some very decent sewing, too. 

She was also learning Welsh, doing ‘pilates’ and was considering taking up yoga lessons as well.

She was a busy lady! As one of her work colleagues said of her: “She was wise, strong, beautiful, generous, devout and feisty. And I loved her for all those qualities.”

Above all, she was an immeasurably loved Mam, daughter, sister and a doting Mamgu and so much loved by her fiancé. Having been together for 14 years, they would have been married last July 20th had covid allowed! 

Her premature passing at 61 is tragic and she is already sorely, painfully missed. She leaves behind a huge chasm in so many hearts that cannot be filled.

“Eternal rest grant unto her, o Lord, may perpetual light shine about her, may she rest in peace.”

If anyone witnessed the collision or may have been travelling on the M4 at the relevant time, please contact the Serious Collision Unit quoting police reference DPP-20210113-317

Police can be contacted either online at: bit.ly/DPPContactOnline, by emailing 101@dyfed-powys.pnn.police.uk, or by calling 101. If you are deaf, hard of hearing, or speech impaired text the non-emergency number on 07811 311 908.

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Tip off leads to pensioner’s drug stash

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A BRIEFCASE full of drugs has been recovered during a raid in Swansea suburb.
Police acting on information provided by a member of the public executed a warrant in Gorseinon and recovered a large quantity of cannabis.
A man was arrested on suspicion of possession of the class B drug, with intent to supply.
A South Wales Police spokesman said: “At around 5.40pm on Wednesday, January 6, following an intelligence led operation, a 68 year-old man from Gorseinon was arrested on suspicion of possession with intent to supply cannabis.
“He was taken to Swansea central police station for questioning. He has been released under investigation”.

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