Covid: ‘NHS staff need vaccine first’ as pressures mount

4 weeks ago
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A nurse with vial of Pfizer vaccine

EPA

Healthcare workers should be given the Covid vaccine before elderly people to ease pressure on hospitals and surgeries, a GP has said.

Dr Phil White, who is chairman of the Welsh GPs Committee, said the new coronavirus variant had led to a rise in staff sickness and isolating.

It comes as figures put Wales behind other nations for the number of people being vaccinated.

The Welsh Government said front-line NHS staff were among the very first groups to receive the vaccine.

But Dr White said more needed to be done, adding: “You can’t run a health service without staff.

“That’s the big worry as staff are dropping like flies and we have to get them vaccinated so they can look after patients.”

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Priority for the first Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine has been health and social care workers, as well as care home residents and staff and people aged over 80.

Dr White, who is based on Anglesey, said that was the original plan of vaccinating based on the original strain of the virus.

But the new variant, which led to tighter lockdown restrictions being introduced before Christmas, had changed things and Dr White said that the priority should be for healthcare workers before anybody else gets the vaccine.

“Health boards and GPs have got an enormous amount of staff shortages with Covid and self-isolation,” he added.

“Here in north Wales sickness is at about 10% and there’s 500 medical staff who have gone back into shielding.”

The Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine is expected to be approved within the next few days which will lead to the roll out of mass vaccinations.

The UK has ordered 100 million doses, of which people need two each, but it can be stored in fridges and is easier to move about unlike the Pfizer which has to be kept above -70C.

‘Wales is behind other nations’

The speed of the Pfizer jab being rolled out across Wales has drawn criticism.

The latest figures are due out this week, but the last set of results up to 23 December put Wales behind other nations with 0.72% of the population vaccinated and 22,595 doses administered.

Dr White added: “Given Wales’ geography it was always going to be difficult, and I think they decided to concentrate on high-incidence areas, like some parts of south Wales, and areas like Wrexham.

“But once we get the Oxford vaccine, then we’re away.”

Meanwhile, former Labour MP Ann Clwyd has written to Prime Minister Boris Johnson citing concerns Wales had not received its allocation of doses of the Pfizer vaccine – of which 40 million doses have been ordered.

“There is concern that NHS Wales hasn’t received enough doses to vaccinate front-line NHS staff and care workers,” she said.

“As an 82-year-old, I speak for a large number of older people who have shielded for months.”

She added: “Wales has a higher proportion of people aged 80-plus and many of these people are now too scared to leave their homes – resulting morbidity will be huge.”

A Welsh Government spokesman said: “Front-line NHS staff are among the very first groups to receive the vaccine, as set out in the priorities agreed by the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation.”

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BBC News – Wales

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