Posted: Thu 3rd Dec 2020

North Wales health chief warns new BioNtech/Pfizer vaccine availability will be limited to begin with

News and Info from Deeside, Flintshire, North Wales
This article is old - Published: Thursday, Dec 3rd, 2020


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A health chief has warned the new BioNtech/Pfizer vaccine will only be available in small amounts initially.

Teresa Owen, acting deputy CEO of Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board and it’s executive director of public health, made the comments in an exclusive  interview with the Local Democracy Reporting Service (LDRS).

On the day the German/American vaccine was historically granted a licence for distribution in the UK, she urged patience from those wanting immunisation against Covid-19.

The UK has ordered an initial batch of five million doses which will come from Pfizer’s plant in Belgium, with only a proportion of those heading for Wales.

However Ms Owen said the health board will work hard to get the most vulnerable patients protected first.

She said: “The vaccine has come through all the trials. So we know it’s safe  -there’s rigour to that.

“We aim to work at the pace we need to now, as soon as the vaccine becomes available.

“I am thinking now of days and weeks, no more than that, we will start vaccinating.

“The truth is it’s going to come in small doses initially. I’m not expecting a big drop of vaccine in North Wales.”

Staff and residents in older people’s care settings will be first to get the jab, as long as experts can work out a way of getting the fragile vaccine to them.

It only comes as part of 195 vial packs, with each vial containing enough vaccine for five doses – after it has been diluted with sodium chloride.

It also has to be transported at between -70C and -80C. As soon as it thaws it last for only five days and wholesalers are not allowed to split packs, meaning all 975 doses in a pack must be used as soon as possible.

Ms Owen said: “It’s one of the more challenging vaccines in many ways because we need to store it in very cold situations and situations we never normally do with vaccines.

“(The vaccine) is fragile so we can’t necessarily move it around as we would, so it’s not like having a good vial and pulling out vaccines from that. We will be given a certain amount of vaccine and we will be able to use it.

“But we’ve also got to plan because it’s not a one dose vaccine, it’s a two dose vaccine.

“So not only do we need to call people in to have the vaccine, and have it available in the right place for them, we also have to make arrangements for the second vaccine.

“It’s only after that second vaccine we think people will have the full protection.”

The two doses of the new vaccine will be spaced 28 days apart. She said the board was well used to vaccination programmes but she had never seen anything on this scale.

“Mass vaccinations are something we are well geared up for,” she revealed. “We have got a fabulous team that look after us on immunisations to make sure we work to the standards, that we follow the right protocols and we are geared up – the training’s in place.”

“On this one it’s a step up again, it’s significant, it’s a population level.”

“Normally it’s a chunk of the population, so it’s significant and the work is underway.”

Jez Hemming – Local Democracy Reporter (more here).

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