The son of an 86-year-old care home resident has spoken of his massive relief after his mum was among the first in Wales to be given the Oxford-AstroZeneca vaccine to protect her against the deadly Coronavirus.
Mary Willis, who celebrated her birthday on Tuesday, was vaccinated along with 47 other residents of Crosfield House, in Rhayader, Powys, which was the first home in the county to receive the jab produced in Wrexham at the CP Pharmaceuticals factory.
Her son, Matthew, an NHS manager from Rhos y Garth, near Llanilar, said: “My mum went into Crosfield after a fall and the care home have been brilliant.
“She’s almost back to her old self and we’re just so relieved she’s been vaccinated.
“She’s been very keen to have the vaccine and is a firm believer in its benefits and hopefully it will provide some protection for everyone from this deadly virus.
“She is making a good recovery from her fall but because of lockdown restrictions she can’t be measured for a wheelchair or have tests on her hearing or eyesight but hopefully this vaccine will allow that to happen.
“It also means that we can maybe look forward now to her being able to come out for the day and hopefully next December we’ll all be able to sit round the table to a Christmas dinner.
“That’s down to the vaccine and I’m absolutely delighted that my mum has received it this week and I very much hope and believe it will allow us to get back to something like normal.
“It will be nice to plan ahead for the future and the vaccine is key to that – it gives us all something to look forward to.”
The vaccine was administered by a team of six nurses from Powys Teaching Health Board and the manager of Crosfield House, former paramedic Wayne Rees, said: “It’s been a very difficult time for everyone on a rollercoaster road but this is the glimmer of light at the end of a long, dark tunnel.
“The team from Powys Health Board were here at 8.30am to set up and the first vaccine was delivered at about 9.30am and working in pairs they have vaccinated 48 of the residents this morning.
“Some of the residents are not suitable for vaccination because of their condition but we have been very fortunate here and have stayed free of the virus.
“Our staff here have been fantastic because it isn’t easy coming in to work every day to do a 12-hour shift in full PPE. It’s very pressurised.
“We’ve all got lives outside work, but they have been abiding by the rules and that’s what is helping get us through this difficult time.”
Care home residents are especially vulnerable to the virus because of their age and infirmity.
Care workers have also been among those most at risk but Crosfield House’s 98 staff received the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine in December and the home was chosen to receive the Oxford vaccine as one of Wales’s Pathfinder homes.
They were also one of only eight homes in Wales involved in the Lateral Flow Testing programme designed to identify symptom-free carriers of the virus.
The home has been able to convert the former library into a visiting room complete with floor to ceiling and wall to wall partition screen with apertures to allow special gloves to be used for contact between residents and visitors.
Wayne Rees added: “We’ve used the communal areas of the home for administering the vaccines to residents apart from those who can’t leave their rooms and there will be nurses there to monitor them for 15 minutes to ensure there are no ill effects.
“Powys Health Board and the local authority have been great during the pandemic and our staff were all vaccinated in early December.
“These last 12 months have been very challenging. It’s taught me a lot and it’s taught the staff a lot and I really can’t praise them highly enough. They’ve all really pulled together.”
Mary Wimbury, Chief Executive of Care Forum Wales, which represents nearly 500 independent social care providers, welcomed the roll-out of the vaccination to the sector.
She said: “Our care home residents and the people who look after them are right in the firing line especially with a new, rampant form of the virus on the loose.
“We’re in a race against time and it’s vital we protect these most vulnerable people and I welcome the fact that this vaccine roll-out is happening quickly because we are facing a health catastrophe.
“The pressure is on and many care homes throughout Wales are at crisis point so now we have the vaccine it is critical that we get it out to those who need it most.”