After such a difficult 2020, I want to start my first column this year by saying there is now real hope of an end to this pandemic.
There are now two approved vaccines being given to people here in Llanelli, with a third (Moderna) arriving in a few weeks. This is the biggest vaccination programme the country has ever seen, and I know many people are anxious about what its rollout means for them. The following are our key milestones for 2021:
By mid-February we aim to have offered vaccination to all care home residents, frontline healthcare staff, the over 70s and everyone who is clinically extremely vulnerable. By the Spring, subject to supply, everyone over 50 and all those who are at risk from underlying health conditions will have been offered vaccination. Together, the 700,000 or so people in these phase one priority groups account for 99% of preventable deaths and hospitalisations from covid. Getting the vaccine to these groups as quickly as possible will save thousands of lives, and help our NHS to finally turn a corner.
By the Autumn, our focus will be on offering the vaccine to everyone else, in line with the latest advise from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation. Once those first priority groups are protected, there will be more room for discussion on whether certain occupations such as teachers and supermarket workers should be prioritised. I want to be clear in saying that any decisions like this will be made by clinicians based on evidence, and not politicians.
Locally, a mass vaccination centre will shortly open in Llanelli, and several local surgeries are now administering the Oxford vaccine. Myself and Nia Griffith MP have sought assurances from the health board that concerns about the distribution of the Oxford vaccine to local practices are being resolved. Their aim remains for all registered practices to get their full quota at the end of the month, but all who registered interest should get some supply next week. I know this is a really anxious time for people waiting for their appointments, but I can assure that no one has been forgotten. This is an immense logistical challenge with several links in the supply chain, but it is also a great challenge to have after going so long without light at the end of the tunnel. Take care everyone, and here’s hoping for a much better 2021.
Please get in touch with me (firstname.lastname@example.org) or follow the links on gov.wales for more information about the vaccine.