Covid: First care home residents in Wales get vaccine

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Media caption,
Glenda Waye says she feels fine after the vaccine and anyone refusing it is "silly"

The first care home residents in Wales have been given the Covid vaccination as the rollout of the jab continues.

A pilot for the Pfizer/BioNtech jab started at Bryn Yr Haul House care home in Mold, Flintshire, on Wednesday.

Wales' health minister said "if all goes well" officials will widen the scheme before Christmas.

Care home owners said it was "early steps in a great journey" but warned the vaccination did not mean an open door policy for families of residents.

Initially, the vaccine will be given to care homes near hospital pharmacies before a possible rollout.

'It is very important that you have it'

Image caption,
Bryn yr Haul residents received the vaccine on Wednesday

"I didn't feel a thing," said Bryn Yr Haul House resident Glenda Waye, 86, who had the vaccine on Wednesday.

"It is very important that you have it, and anybody that doesn't, I think it would be silly.

"It is better than having that virus, isn't it."

Image caption,
Bryn Yr Haul House resident Glenda Waye, 86, had the vaccine on Wednesday

She said she had not been worried about catching Covid-19 as she left safe in the home, but she had missed being able to see family and have a "cuddle".

She said it was "lovely" to see her son and daughter-in-law last week and she was looking forward to a visit from her sister on Sunday - for the first time since July.

"It is the cuddle you miss. Talking through the window, on the phone, isn't quite the same," she said, adding it "would be lovely" when it becomes possible after more people have the jab.

Care home manager Christine Whiteside said the vaccination meant "the beginning of an end" following a "rollercoaster" year for residents and staff.

Image caption,
Care home manager Christine Whiteside said the vaccine means visitors will eventually be able to "hug" loved ones again

"This moment means now we will be open eventually to indoor visiting," she said.

"We will be able to have the opportunity for relatives to come in, to meet their loved ones, to hold them, to hug them, to kiss them.

"Having the opportunity to get back to a near normal is absolutely amazing, it really is."

James McGuigan, from Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board, said it was a "day we have been looking forward to for many, many months", with the vaccine able to "protect some of the most vulnerable people in society".

'Real game-changer'

Clive Nadin, the owner and manager of Abbey Dale House Care Home in Colwyn Bay, said he and a handful of his 30 staff were given the vaccine on Tuesday.

He said two members of staff would not receive the vaccine - one is scared of needles and the other could not take it on medical grounds.

He told BBC Radio Wales: "I'm feeling fine, a slight sore arm which is one of the expected side effects.

"It's just a real game-changer… something we've got to do and I implore everybody to follow suit."

He said getting the vaccine to residents was a "real logistical challenge" as they "come in large packs of 975… the vaccine could be damaged if it's moved."

The group that represents care homes in Wales said the rise in Covid rates across Wales - with some areas among the highest in the UK - meant homes would be "careful" and "cautious" with family visits to residents over the Christmas period.

Latest figures show Wales has the worst infection rate of the four UK nations - with a case rate of 416.5 cases per 100,000 people over seven days - with Merthyr Tydfil, Neath Port Talbot and Bridgend in the top four worst affected local authority areas.

How many Covid-19 infections have there been in care homes?

Covid-19 testing in care homes. Number of positive tests per week.  .
  • There are 1,055 care homes in Wales and 120 of them (11%) had notified one or more positive cases in staff or residents in the most recent week and 27% had within the past month, according to Care Inspectorate Wales
  • Neath Port Talbot had 16 care homes which had notified at least one case in the week ending 6 December, Swansea was next with 13 care homes, Caerphilly and Cardiff were next highest, each with 11
  • Across Wales, 3,705 care home residents were tested in the most recent week and 265 (7.1%) were positive - fewer than the week before. But it has dropped from the numbers we saw at the end of October, Public Health Wales figures suggest
  • There have been 950 Covid-19 deaths in care homes up to 4 December, making up 24.4% of all coronavirus deaths in Wales
  • There were 42 care home deaths in Wales where Covid-19 was mentioned on the death certificate in the latest ONS weekly total in Wales, fewer than last week
  • Ten of the deaths were in care homes in Swansea, six in Torfaen and five in Neath Port Talbot

"Nobody wants to be separated at Christmas," said Care Forum Wales chairman Mario Kreft.

"But there are rises in community transmission across Wales, so we must be very careful as we go forward in these next weeks and months.

"We could see all residents vaccinated by, let's say, February, so we're only weeks away."

But while Wales' Older People's Commissioner was "delighted" the pilot had started, she said it was "crucial" care home residents can have visits from loved ones.

"As it is likely to be some time before all older people living in care homes are protected by the vaccine, it is crucial that residents can stay in close contact with their loved ones," said Helena Herklots.

She said she wanted "safe visits can go ahead wherever possible, which will be particularly important over the Christmas period".

Welsh officials had previously not been able to say when vaccination of care home residents would begin, despite the group being a priority for the vaccine programme.

Health Minister Vaughan Gething initially said it would not be safe to get the jab to care homes because the vaccine needs to be kept at -70c and health chiefs wanted to use a small number of hubs.

But Pfizer has since confirmed the vaccine could be "packed down" into smaller pack sizes, allowing it to go to care homes, which Mr Gething said can "bring a new level of protection to some of our most vulnerable people".

Care home residents began to receive the vaccine in Scotland on Monday.

Media caption,
Covid in Scotland: First care home resident receives vaccine

A report had said care homes had been "badly let down" during the coronavirus pandemic with almost 30,000 more residents in England and Wales dying during the the early part of the pandemic than during the same period in 2019.

The coronavirus vaccine rollout in Wales started last week with front-line health care and social care workers prioritised.

Mr Gething said: "We need to continue to make sure we can safely transport the vaccine to people who can't come to clinics.

"If all goes well this week, we will roll out care home vaccination ahead of Christmas, bringing a new level of protection to some of our most vulnerable people."