Alarmed care home bosses are calling for a U-turn after being told that fit, healthy NHS staff on maternity leave will receive a Covid-19 vaccine jab before their elderly and vulnerable residents.
Care Forum Wales Council member Glyn Williams wants an assurance from the Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board that their residents will be first in the queue for the Biontech/Pfizer coronavirus immunisation
He has written a strongly worded letter to the health board urging them to stick to the original promise of the UK Government that care home residents would be given priority.
The roll-out of the vaccine, described by some as the “beginning of the end” for the coronavirus pandemic, is getting underway this week after it was approved by the .
Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA).
One of the main logistical headaches is that the Biontech/Pfizer needs to be stored -70C and -80C before being readied for use.
The plea comes after Care Forum Wales, which represents nearly 500 care homes and domiciliary care companies, launched their campaign to Shield Social Care and Save Lives.
In his letter Mr Williams, pointed out that, according to the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), care homes and social care staff should be the “highest priority”.
Mr Williams, who runs the Gwyddor Care Home in Bodedern on Anglesey, said: “The JCVI priority list makes sense considering that frail elderly residents are the most likely to die if they contract Covid-19.
“Immunising our staff as a priority would also help prevent Covid-19 from getting into care homes. We are all aware of the devastating consequences if it does.
“I fully understand the logistical problems around storage and limited movements. BUT does BCUHB realise that are residents and staff can travel?
“It appears not, as our residents and staff have no appointments. Neither have we been asked to provide a list of staff. Other health boards across Wales have already received appointments.
“It is simply not rocket science to transport our residents and staff to hospital appointments; we do it every day for outpatient appointments etc.
“I am very concerned that the limited supply of the Pfizer vaccine is being offered to young, fit and healthy NHS staff, including NHS staff currently on maternity leave. My understanding is that they have appointments booked as early as the 9th December,
“We know there is a limited supply of the Pfizer vaccine, with no confirmation when or IF the next more resilient vaccine will receive MHRA approval.
“If approval is not received then our residents and staff could be left high and dry without any immunity against Covid-19.
“I understand that the Pfizer vaccine requires two episodes of immunisation to provide the highest level of resistance, but that some immunity is expected after the first injection.
“I can assure you that social care staff and residents will not miss any appointments provided. Furthermore, I would like some reassurance that NHS staff will be as diligent in preventing wastage.
“I beg you to reconsider your immunisation priority, as a matter of urgency, putting the lives of our residents to the top of your list.
“Our residents and staff are quite happy to travel from the edge of the world into the civilised east, at a moment’s notice!”
It was a sentiment endorsed by CFW chair Mario Kreft MBE who said everything possible should be done to shield social care and save lives.
Mr Kreft said: “We all applaud the superhuman efforts in getting the Biontech/Pfizer vaccine developed and approved for use in record time.
“Our care homes and their staff have been heroic in keeping the virus as bay to protect their elderly and vulnerable residents who are uniquely at risk because of their age and infirmity.
“Where the virus has got into care homes, we have all seen the heart-breaking and devastating consequences.
“We are working very closely with the Welsh Government on this matter and we are hopeful that all care home residents will be having their first jabs before the end of the year with the second following in six to seven weeks’ time.
“As the second wave of Covid started, we relaunched the Care Forum Wales campaign to Shield Social Care and Save Lives This Winter and the arrival of the Pfizer vaccine is a major step forward and a massive gamechanger in keeping our residents and staff safe
“In the meantime, Care Forum Wales is urging the Betsi Cadwaladr health board to look again at its priorities to ensure the mistakes made earlier in the year are not repeated now.
“This time our care home residents and those who care for them should be first in line so that the promise to protect them is kept.”