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Health Minister’s update on Covid-19 vaccine deployment in Wales

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THE LONG-TERM response to the Covid-19 pandemic requires a safe and effective vaccine to be available for all, the Welsh Health Minister has said.

Vaughan Gething has released a statement confirming that the UK Government Covid Vaccine Taskforce, has been leading work on funding and procuring vaccines for the UK. Over a number of months, we have been closely engaged with them and other key stakeholders to monitor progress on their development.

The Minister said that during this period his team has established governance arrangements at a UK and all-Wales level with a range of partner organisations and stakeholders to work through the deployment and logistical issues for when a vaccine becomes available.

Vaughan Gething said: “Since May 2020 officials from all four UK nations have taken part in UK Covid-19 Vaccine Programme board to share expertise and intelligence. This operational delivery group has taken forward a number of work streams to address areas of UK wide work and reports to the UK Vaccine Task Force (VTF). Dr Gill Richardson (Senior Professional Advisor to the CMO) is the SRO for Wales who attends a dedicated weekly meeting with other nations.

“In parallel with UK wide engagement, the Wales Covid-19 Vaccine Delivery Programme Board was set up on the 4 June. This is led by Welsh Government with membership from stakeholders across the health and care system. Representation includes all health boards and trusts, WLGA, Public Health Wales, professional leads, the Chief Pharmaceutical Officer, health and social care professional groups and patient representation through the third sector. The board identified ‘Once for Wales’ workstreams include planning and delivery; workforce surge recruitment, registration, training and mobilisation; disease surveillance; vaccine storage, distribution and safety monitoring; communications & marketing; infection prevention and control, including PPE, digital solutions, consumables and vaccine efficacy.

“As part of the preparation in Wales, the Chief Medical Officer has written to all Health Boards and Trusts in July to ask them, with key partners, to establish groups to rapidly progress local plans for delivery of a Covid-19 vaccine. In August the CMO wrote again for a further update.

“Each plan has been subject to review and assessment to ensure each Health Board and Trust has appropriate facilities and equipment to receive, store, prepare and administer vaccines in a safe and controlled manner and plans for rapid deployment through a variety of means (mass immunisation, mobile, occupational and wider primary care).

“The Chief Medical Officer will shortly write again to Health Boards and Trusts to give national direction to the implementation of the vaccination programme.

“I have met, on two occasions this month, with the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care and the other devolved Health Ministers to discuss recent developments on the Covid vaccine and ensure alignment across the whole of the UK on vaccine deployment.

“It is important to recognise however, that none of the vaccines which have been procured by the UK Government have received the necessary regulatory approval. The UK Government has secured contracts to up to 350 million vaccines doses through agreements with six separate vaccine developers. This includes the agreement with Pfizer/BioNTech of which 40 million doses of their vaccine have been secured on behalf of the UK. If approved, Wales will receive its population share under the Barnett formula (4.78%). Once we know whether the vaccine meets robust safety standards, only then can the medicines regulator consider whether it can be made available to the public.

“From our ongoing discussions we are aware of the significant challenges of storing, distributing and handling a novel vaccine of this type. In particular its need for storage at very low temperatures. As more information becomes available, Health Board plans are being adapted to ensure they are sufficiently robust for NHS Wales to respond to those challenges.

“If approved, there will be limited supplies of this vaccine at first, so it will be offered to those at highest risk. I have already decided that priority for initial distribution of any new vaccine will be determined in accordance with advice from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation. The JCVI is expected to update its advice on priority categories before the end of this month.

“I am grateful for all the hard work that has been done in the service to date to get Wales ready to deploy a much-needed vaccine. I am pleased to report that all NHS organisations in Wales have embraced the challenge presented to them and are at advanced stage of planning for the arrival of a vaccine, this includes undertaking Wales-wide simulation exercises to test our distribution and storage arrangements and to ensure we can get vaccine safely to every part of Wales. Military planning expertise is assisting to support advanced logistical and operational delivery through a balanced programme portfolio, including live testing exercises.

“Once regulatory approval is received our health and social care staff in Wales stand ready to begin a vaccination programme for the people of Wales.”

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Health

NHS Covid Pass to enter large scale events and nightclubs to be introduced

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Next month, people in Wales will need to show an NHS Covid Pass to enter nightclubs and attend events.

The move has just been announced by the first minister today (Friday 17th September).

According to the government, the measure is being introduced to control the spread of Covid in Wales, where cases are now at an all-time high.

Despite the increase in cases, the alert level will remain at zero for the next three weeks, and no new restrictions beyond passes will be introduced.

The First Minister is urging everyone to work from home whenever possible and to get fully vaccinated.

First Minister Mark Drakeford said: “Across Wales, coronavirus cases have risen to very high levels over the summer as more people have been gathering and meeting.

“Tragically, more people are dying from this terrible virus.

“The very strong advice we have from our scientific advisers is to take early action to prevent infections increasing further.

“The last thing we want is further lockdowns and for businesses to have to close their doors once again. That’s why we must take small but meaningful action now to control the spread of the virus and reduce the need for tougher measures later.”

On October 11, the NHS Covid Pass requirement takes effect.

All people over the age of 18 will need to have a pass to enter:

  • Nightclubs
  • Indoor, non-seated events for more than 500 people, such as concerts or conventions
  • Outdoor non-seated events for more than 4,000 people
  • Any setting or event with more than 10,000 people in attendance

It means concerts and large scale sports events will now require the passes.

People who are fully vaccinated in Wales can already download the NHS Covid Pass to securely show and share their vaccine status.

It also allows people to show they have had a negative lateral flow test result within the last 48 hours.

Mr Drakeford continued: “My message to you today is a simple but serious one – the pandemic is not over and we all need to take steps to protect ourselves and our loved ones.

“We have high levels of the virus in our communities and while our fantastic vaccination programme has helped stop thousands more people from becoming seriously ill or dying, the pressure on the NHS is increasing.

“We hope introducing the requirement to show a COVID pass will help keep venues and events – many of which have only recently started trading again – open.

“Showing a COVID Pass is already part of our collective effort to keep businesses open with some major events, such as the successful Green Man Festival, using it.

“We will continue to work closely with all businesses affected to ensure a smooth introduction and operation of this system.”

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News

Crucial council meeting debating former Chief Executive’s pay-off cancelled

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AN EXTRAORDINARY meeting of Pembrokeshire County Council supposed to take place next Monday has been cancelled.

Pembrokeshire County Council was due to meet on Monday morning to debate the controversial settlement agreement between the local authority and former CEO Ian Westley.

In a circular sent to all councillors late on Wednesday afternoon, however, officials told councillors: ‘There are a number of issues that have recently come to light which are unable to be resolved ahead of the meeting and it is essential that Members have the fullest information and be correctly advised in order to consider the matter before them.’

Those issues might be open to speculation; they could range from the relatively trivial to the vital.The meeting would have taken place before Councillors received the full report into the circumstances of Mr Westley’s departure from Audit Wales.

Former council CEO Ian Westley

That report’s content is also strictly under wraps , and the Council has not yet received the full and final report.

Individuals named in it received copies of sections of the report dealing only with them earlier in the summer. That process’ purpose was to allow those named to respond to comments made by others regarding them and dispute findings of fact with which they disagreed.

The row over Mr Westley’s departure has been followed by the Monitoring Officer’s resignation and the Head of Legal’s absence on long-term sick leave. The HR director is currently seconded to ERW, the regional education consortium.

Each of those officers will have had some involvement in the events leading to Mr Westley’s departure and the signing of the Settlement Agreement between him and their employer.As the person who led the negotiations for the Council, its Leader, Cllr David Simpson, is also likely to feature in the report.Legal issues surrounding the confidential terms of the settlement agreement (bar the pay-out’s amount) meant the scheduled meeting was to take place behind closed doors.

That’s not an unusual step in itself. Meetings regarding HR matters – for example, discussions about the appointment of the new CEO – are routinely held in private.

Allegation and counter-allegation about what happened flew around the Chamber in meetings earlier this year, with one or two councillors appearing suspiciously well-briefed.

Therefore, the question arises as to what confidence those concerned can have councillors will keep their traps shut after a behind-closed-doors meeting or not try to spin its content one way or another to suit their own or others’ agendas.

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News

Stephen Crabb’s Preseli constituency could cease to exist following boundary changes

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PRESELI Pembrokeshire MP Stephen Crabb is looking at an uncertain future. At the next election, boundary changes could mean that his constituency will cease to exist.

The Preseli area is being split up and divided between Ceredigion and South Pembrokeshire, according to a leaked report.

The move comes as the number of MPs representing Wales is reduced by eight.

Wales’ proposed boundary changes have been leaked a day earlier than expected by the Guido Fawkes website.

The new constituencies are expected to come into force at the next General Election expected to be in May 2024.

Despite Wales losing 20% of its representatives the number of MPs across the UK will stay the same, at 650.

England’s allocation of MPs will rise from 533 to 543, while the number of MPs in Scotland will be reduced from 59 to 57, and in Northern Ireland the figure will remain at 18.

As well as publishing its final proposals tomorrow, the Boundary Commission will open an 8-week consultation period where the public can share their views on the proposed constituencies.

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