• January 31, 2023

Covid vaccine: Can Wales meet its targets?

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By Steve Duffy & Gwyndaf Hughes
BBC News

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It is hoped that 70% of people over 80 in Wales will receive their first dose of a Covid vaccine by the end of the weekend.

However, it may take a few days for the official numbers to be released so that we know exactly.

First Minister Mark Drakeford said having access to “daily” data he was confident that the goal should be achieved by the end of Sunday

But with criticism of a slow start Has Wales lagged behind other nations in introducing vaccination?

What can we see from the latest data?

Wales reported 21,882 first-dose vaccinations on Friday – a 50% increase in daily total from the previous day.

If this were kept at the same level, the target of the first doses of the first four priority groups would be achieved by February 14th.

In fact, with 6.7% of the population receiving the first dose, this is a little ahead of Scotland based on population rates.

England has vaccinated 8.3% of its population. But comparisons are complicated and here is why.

The numbers we are seeing are lagging compared to current developments

The vaccination numbers that we see every weekday are a few days old. It takes up to five days after a person receives a dose for the data to actually be published.

General practitioners are asked to enter data as soon as possible. However, these need to be checked and verified by the National Vaccination Service and Public Health Wales to ensure that people, for example, are not double-counted before actually being released.

So there is a built-in delay between what the NHS Wales bosses see on a daily basis and what we see.

A health official said they were underreporting instead of allowing “every possibility of overreporting”.

This enables Mr Drakeford to be confident based on the information he is required to provide each day.

“Ministers see information and operational data coming in from the health service more or less in real time every day,” he said.

“There is a delay in the statistics that are published every day. They have to be officially collected from the health service.

“They have to be interrogated, quality assured and then published as formal figures.”

How does that compare to England?

In England “real time” data is published the next day, which can then be changed at a later date if necessary.

So the official numbers from NHS England – which show a higher rate – are actually ahead of Wales in time.

It referred to its website, which stated that the data were “preliminary” and showed dosages reported by midnight the day before publication.

“The weekly publication then provides more accurate and detailed data by dose and age,” she added.

In Wales, 6% of people received a first dose by January 21, compared with 6% in England four days earlier – but without the delay in publication.

The figure for Friday was 8.3% of the population in England and 6.7% in Wales. Four days ago the number in England was 6.2%.

Different approaches first – things will balance each other out

Admittedly, Wales appeared to have been slow to start compared to other UK nations last month.

One of the statements made by health bosses in Wales is that this was a product of the different approaches used by the British nations.

They expect things to balance out between now and February.

Northern Ireland focused on mobile nursing home vaccination units, England focused on its primary care hubs, doing about two-thirds of the vaccinations, while Wales began mass vaccination centers before rolling out its network of general practitioners – as the number of Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccines increased available.

Some general practitioners were frustrated that they did not receive timely care. This was because vaccine batches could not be split and had to be shipped in their original packaging. However, this problem should be resolved as the supply increases.

Health officials in Wales said general practitioners densified many of their vaccination clinics from Wednesday and then into the weekends.

In Wales, vaccination numbers are never published on weekends. But with the data lag, we should see the evidence in the pudding later in the week.

Where are people vaccinated?

Image rightsSwansea Bay UHBImage descriptionThe Gorseinon mass vaccination center is one of three in the Swansea Bay Health Board area that has opened so far. It will focus on vaccinating people in their late 70’s along with general practitioners’ offices

A total of 650,000 in the four priority groups are expected to receive first vaccine doses in mid-February.

Mass Immunization Centers (MVCs) – Approximately 40% receive the Pfizer vaccine through this network of approximately 35 centers. This includes employees in health care and nursing homes as well as in the coming weeks those over 70 and the second dose. As more Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccines become available, some MVCs could be adapted for this as well.

Family Practices – Around 48% of vaccines are expected for the first priority groups of 250 Family Practice Centers, which will initially involve Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccines for over 80 years.

Mobile units will deliver about 5% to isolated people and people in nursing homes and 7% through a hybrid model with vaccination centers that may be open for a short time.

Image rightsCardiff and Vale UHBImage descriptionAll 60 primary care practices on the Cardiff and Vale Health Board will be part of the rollout

The planning of the program and the number of vaccines dispensed from these different areas of health care will depend on the supply. However, health officials are actively planning to open centers – possibly 24 hours in the future.

They want to train opticians and dentists to help, as well as those like St. John and 50 firefighters who are available to help.

NHS Wales uses what is known as a “seamless” booking and tracking system for the vaccination program.

It is updated four times a day, manages supplies and can see who should be vaccinated where.

This means appointments can be sent quickly, which GPs can use to see who has been seen on their list and hopefully avoid double bookings.

Will we see an upturn this weekend?

Health officials certainly hope so. They say that since launch began, 180,000 doses of Pfizer-BioNTech and 140,000 doses of Oxford-AstraZeneca – 320,000 in total – have been given to health authorities, “hugging” and popping up in numbers.

The gap between running out of supplies and actual vaccinations is narrowing, indicating an increase.

Friday’s numbers showed that 30% of those over 80 and 60% of nursing home residents had received a first dose – but that would be the delayed number.

However, the change in the daily numbers for those over 80 – an additional 11,500 per day – indicated that we are starting to see the results of the introduction to GP clinics.

The hope is that 70% of those over 80 and nursing home residents will have received the vaccine (or have been offered to refuse) by the weekend. The aim is to achieve everything by the end of January.

If at the current rate – and if it stays the same – this 70% target for the over 80 year olds was reached in about six days. However, an upward trend is expected.

Those in charge of the program say the number of people over 80 and nursing home staff receiving their dose will rise sharply, while the health minister said he expected the program to “increase significantly”.

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