Posted: Tue 14th Dec 2021

Increasing booster roll out “is now the number one priority for the NHS” – Health Minister

News and Info from Deeside, Flintshire, North Wales
This article is old - Published: Tuesday, Dec 14th, 2021

The Minister for Health, Eluned Morgan, and Dr Gillian Richardson, Deputy Chief Medical Officer (Vaccines), held a briefing this lunchtime to give an update on the Covid-19 Vaccine Booster Roll-out.

The Minister said, “Increasing the rollout of our booster program to maximise protection is now the number one priority for the NHS. We’ve been working with health boards since the weekend to make changes to the vaccination program to go further and to go faster. And this will mean the focus of the NHS will need to shift towards vaccinating people for a short time.

“The NHS will continue to provide essential services emergency and urgent care, but we will be redeploying all available clinical staff to vaccination centres. We’ll be asking them to work in existing mass vaccination centers, which will be expanded to their maximum capacity and also in new centres. Many of the centres will be expanded to have dedicated walk-in lanes and we’ll be targeting these walk-in slots of particular groups of people.

“We’ll be looking at expanding existing opening hours. Centres are already open from 9am to 8pm. This will mean asking NHS staff to vaccinate from early in the morning to late into the night to make sure as many people as possible have the extra protection, the booster dose offers.”

“Expanding the booster program is a massive undertaking. We’ll need to more than double the speed of the program if we’re going to be successful. We’re asking a huge amount of the NHS, we’re asking staff to cancel leave and to work in clinic day and night and through Christmas to vaccinate hundreds of thousands of people in a matter of weeks.”

Talking about the impact on planned health services due to the shift in focus, the Minister added, “We need to make it absolutely clear. What we’re talking about here is a three week burst of activity, and then hopefully we will be able to get back to some kind of normality.”

Speaking aside from booster, the Minister said, ” I want to be clear, however, that while vaccination is our best defence against Coronavirus, we will need multiple layers of protection and measures in place to keep Wales safe from a large Omicron wave that’s heading our way. We have already taken steps to increase protection in Wales but we’re likely to need more as the variant becomes embedded in our communities.”

On Christmas she added, “The last thing we want to do is to cancel Christmas it is important we make that absolutely clear. But we are not currently taking anything off the table either.

“The best thing for people to do in order to see if we can remain in a situation where we’re all able to see each other over Christmas is to actually take precautions now. So we don’t see the kind of increase in rates that we are expecting.

“A lot of this is in our hands as individuals and as a community, so clearly the more you mix now, the more likely you are to contract COVID and this particular form of COVID. So certainly at the very minimum, we will be asking people to take lateral flow tests before they mix at Christmas, but that is something that they should be undertaking already in particular, if they’re meeting with older vulnerable people.”

On what the future may hold the Minister explained, “We are trying to respond in real time to the situation. If we were in a situation where we still had 30 Omicron cases in Wales at Christmas, then they wouldn’t be a problem.

“I really doubt that that will be the situation and that’s why to an extent some of this isn’t in the hands of people of Wales but obviously we can all do our bit to try and control this.

“We will try and keep our communities and our societies open because we think there’s a responsibility to do that. It is not just about a COVID being harm. There are others, economic harms, social harms, mental health harms that we need to consider alongside that so it’s not just a medical issue that we need to assess in terms of the NHS, we need to assess other issues alongside this.

“I’m afraid I can’t be more definitive in terms of what Christmas will look like when we’re in such a fast moving situation.”

The Minister also gave an update on Lateral Flow Test supply in Wales, “Wales has about 21,300,000+ lateral flow tests available in our warehouses, in terms of demand there is around 900,000 per week. We know that the UK Government has requested a 200 million additional lateral flow tests and we’ll be getting our percentage share of that.

“So we are fairly confident in terms of the number of lateral flow casts that are available to us. There may have been an issue yesterday in terms of people seeing a sudden surge, but we would ask people to use up the lateral flow test that they already have in their homes before going out to fetch some more.

“You can access these lateral flow test from your local pharmacies. 97% of pharmacies and West have signed up to distribute these lateral flow tests.”

The URL to check the closest pick up for LFTs is https://maps.test-and-trace.nhs.uk/

You can watch the briefing on the video below:

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