Wales’ Chief Medical Officer welcomes encouraging vaccine news but urges public to continue to “protect yourself and others”
The Chief Medical Officer for Wales has welcomed the news that a Covid-19 vaccine could be ready this year – but has warned “that these are very early days”.
Dr Frank Atherton said it could be towards the end next year before a vaccine was rolled out fully to all the eligible population.
Planning for the delivery of a COVID-19 vaccine in Wales is already underway and immunisation amongst the most vulnerable could began by December, the Welsh Government has said.
Care home residents and people who work in care homes will be amongst the first in Wales to receive the vaccine, once it has been given the green light by regulators.
NHS workers and the most elderly would then be offered the vaccine – with different age categories then prioritised.
Earlier this week, preliminary data showed that Pfizer and BioNTech’s Covid-19 vaccine was 90% effective in preventing symptomatic disease with no safety concerns raised.
The companies plan to apply for emergency approval to use the vaccine by the end of the month.
However Dr Atherton has urged people to continue observing social distancing, limiting meeting in indoor spaces, wearing face coverings where appropriate and practice good hand and cough hygiene.
“This is an important step and a remarkable scientific achievement. But full safety data is needed before the vaccine is approved for use,” he said.
“We have well-developed plans to roll out any approved vaccine across priority groups in Wales, but in the meantime, we all need to continue doing everything we can to continue to prevent the spread of coronavirus.
“Limiting indoor visits, keeping our social distance, and wearing a face covering where needed as well as regular hand washing are vital actions if we are to suppress the spread of the virus in Wales. Continue to ‘stay safe’ and protect yourself and others.”
News of the vaccine has sparked hopes of a return to ‘normal life’ and a stock markets soared following an announcement of the breakthrough by Pfizer on Monday.
The Welsh Government has been working closely with the UK Government and other devolved nations on preparing for vaccines in development.
First Minister Mark Drakeford said this week that Wales “will receive our population share of any vaccine once it becomes properly approved and available.”
A COVID-19 vaccine will only be approved for use in the UK by Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) once it has met robust standards of effectiveness, safety and quality through testing and the trials.
It’s reported the Pfizer vaccine has to be stored at -70ºC which is “far different to the way a flu vaccination is stored at a GP surgery, stored in an ordinary fridge” Mr Drakeford said.
Dr Atherton said: “Planning for the delivery of a potential COVID-19 vaccine in Wales is well underway.
“Including organising the logistics for transporting the vaccine, identifying suitable venues for vaccinations to take place, and ensuring that healthcare professionals are available and trained to administer the vaccines.
“But it’s likely to be a long time until the whole population has been vaccinated, so until then we should all be doing whatever we can to stop the spread of the virus.”
In a statement the Welsh government said that “Planning for the delivery of a potential Covid-19 vaccine in Wales is well underway.”
“This includes organising the logistics for transporting the vaccine, identifying suitable venues for vaccinations to take place, and ensuring that healthcare professionals are available and trained to administer the vaccines.”
“There will be limited supplies of a vaccine at first, so it will be offered to those at highest risk.”
“The vaccines need to pass final safety checks, but if this occurs we will begin to immunise in December alongside other UK nations.”
“Health and social care workers, care home residents and staff have been prioritised to receive a vaccine first, with roll out to older people in age bands from next year.”
During a UK government Coronavirus data briefing yesterday, Professor Wei Shen Lim, Chair of the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation said that mathematical models have looked at different vaccination strategies and how those might work.
He said the “interim current recommendations – which may change as we get more information – at the very top of our priority list are care home residents and people who work in care homes.”
“This reflects the devastating impact of COVID-19 in our care homes as we all know.
“Following on from care home residents, we will prioritise older individuals going down age spans down from 80 plus year olds to 60 plus year olds.”
“The reason for this is because age is by far the strongest risk factor associated with severe COVID-19 disease.”
“Following on from those who are aged 65 and above, we will then prioritise individuals, particularly adult who have an underlying health condition that puts them at risk of COVID-19 disease.”
“Following on from there we will keep going down to age bands to individuals who are 50 years and above, that describes phase one of the program and phase one as I say, is aimed at protecting the most vulnerable.”
“If phase one is completed, then we will have protected hopefully over 99 per cent of those individuals who are at risk of dying from COVID-19.”
“We have not decided yet on who else should be vaccinated beyond phase one, that’s not to say that they shouldn’t be vaccinated, but simply that we haven’t decided that yet on prioritisation.”
“That’s because we need more information hopefully on the vaccines, who they’re good for, and whether they protect against transmission or infection.”
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