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Robert Street Practice has apologised to vulnerable patients over vaccine delay

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A DOCTOR’S surgery in Milford Haven has said it is sorry to its patients after admitting it will have to postpone starting its coronavirus vaccine programme due to lack of product.

The first patients due to be vaccinated were the most vulnerable – care home residents and staff – and Milford Haven residents registered at their practice over 80 years of age.

But the practice has now been informed by Hywel Dda Health Board that it cannot order any stock of vaccines until later this month, so will not be able to start inoculations until February at the earliest.

It is because one of four batches of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine, being used for the rollout in GP surgeries in Wales, has been delayed.

Speaking during a press conference on Friday, Wales’ First Minister Mark Drakeford said the country had had around 300,000 vaccine doses delivered to them.

Mr Drakeford explained that Wales has received roughly 50,000 doses of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine and 250,000 of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine – but the latter cannot be used in GP surgeries easily because it must be kept at very low temperatures until a few days before use.

On other words, Wales does not have enough of the right type of vaccine for GP surgeries.

On its official Facebook page, the Robert Street practice said: “[We] wish to apologize as we are experiencing a delay in being able to start vaccinating Tier 1 and 2 patients against COVID. These tiers include care home residents and their staff, NHS staff and all patients over 80.

“All our staff are keen and fully trained to be able to start this campaign as soon as possible but our practice has been informed by Hywel Dda Health Board that we are not able to order any stock of vaccines until hopefully week commencing 25th January.

“This is out of our control totally. We have been advised to not make definite plans until we have full confirmation so will inform those patients who currently qualify as soon as we are able to access stock.

“We hope to commence as soon as we can in February. We apologize for any inconvenience or worry this may cause.”

The Welsh Government said the delay in receiving sufficient Oxford/AstraZenica stocks would not impact their wider aim to vaccinate around 750,000 of the most vulnerable people by the middle of February.

A spokesman said: “We were recently notified that one of the four batches of the vaccine we had anticipated receiving this week will be delayed, and not available until the week commencing 25 January.

“This does not affect our overall expected delivery volumes or expectations for hitting the milestones set out in our Covid-19 Vaccination Strategy for Wales.”

According to the BBC, each batch contains about 26,000 doses.

It is understood that the delay will also impact on supplies in other parts of the UK in the coming week.

Welsh Government has also confirmed that it plans are in place to utilise all of Wales’ current supply of the Pfizer BioNTech vaccine by early February.

A spokesman told The Pembrokeshire Herald: “By mid-February and subject to supply, our aim is to offer vaccinations to all care home residents and staff; frontline health and social care staff; those 70 years of age and over; and clinically extremely vulnerable individuals.”

Other GP surgeries in Wales have also apologised for delays.

However Stephen Crabb said that there was better news on vaccines following his weekly meeting with the Local Health Board.

He said: “Pembrokeshire will see a vaccination centre open next week.

“This is certainly encouraging – and it’s what I’ve been calling for since the start of the vaccination programme. It will focus on delivering the Pfizer vaccine to local health and social care staff for the time-being.”

But the Preseli Pembrokeshire MP did not seem to know about delivery delays.

Mr Crabb said: “A further delivery of AstraZeneca vaccine doses will see GP surgeries across Pembrokeshire delivering vaccinations next week to their vulnerable patients. I will continue to stay in touch with the LHB on a daily basis to monitor progress.

South Pembrokeshire’s Simon Hart MP said on his Facebook page on Saturday (Jan 16): “So far approximately 15,930 local residents have been vaccinated or about 4.1% of the population. Initially this has focussed on NHS and care staff who have contact with patients but has no moved into the first cohorts of more vulnerable people.

“As many people will know, the plan across the UK, is to vaccinate Cohorts 1-4 by the middle of February. These cohorts, people over 70 and the very vulnerable, account for 88% of all hospital admissions.

“Next week the health board will receive a further 15,000 Oxford Astra Zenica vaccinations, and 6,000 more Pfizer vaccinations.

“Crucially for residents in Pembrokeshire (where concerns have been raised about a lack of facilities and a slow start for the over 80’s) plans are advancing quickly for new vaccination centres in both the North and South of the County as well as in all GP surgeries.

“Our “strike-rate” in Wales is still a little behind the rest of the UK at 3,215/100k of population compared with 4,005/100k in England, but we are assured that provision of vaccines is evenly distributed throughout the whole UK.

“Its worth pointing out that this is a mammoth task and many thousands of people in the NHS, MoD and many other areas are doing a remarkable job and that the UK is currently third in the world in its vaccination programme.”

“As of lunchtime today, over 15,000 vaccination had taken place across the 3 counties in the LHB area – 4.1% of our population.

“This is positive although the proportion of over 80’s who have been vaccinated is considerably lower than in England. This is where we need to see progress now. Getting vaccines to the most vulnerable ensures more lives are saved.

“Our hospitals remain under pressure so it is still really important that we follow the guidance. But today’s update from the Health Board shows we are moving in the right direction.”

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Green hydrogen electrolyser and car refueler arrive at Milford Waterfront

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PEMBROKESHIRE COUNTY COUNCIL says it is leading the way in renewable energy with a collaborative £4.5 million project exploring the vital role hydrogen could play in a decarbonised energy future.

Milford Haven : Energy Kingdom (MH:EK) is a two-year ‘detailed design’ project, completing in 2022, exploring what a renewable energy based Smart Local Energy System could look like for the Milford Haven Waterway – including the concept of a Hydrogen Fuel Cell Electric Vehicle (HFCEV).

The aim is to gather detailed insight into the whole energy system around the Waterway, looking at how to make, using and distributing hydrogen financially viable within the different energy sectors of buildings, industry, power and transport.

The MH:EK team will investigate the potential of local renewable energy, including solar, onshore wind, future offshore wind and biomass for decarbonised gas transition.

One element of the project involves a consumer trial of two Riversimple ‘Rasa’ HFCEV’s. The MH:EK team is building a green hydrogen electrolyser and refueler on Milford Waterfront – and this will be used to produce green hydrogen on site to fuel the two trial HFCEV’s.

The project will demonstrate the practical application of hydrogen technology. The aim is to test the feasibility of two hydrogen powered Rasa cars. They will be built by Welsh company Riversimple, and operate as fleet cars in and around the Haven.

Pembrokeshire County Councillor Cris Tomos, Cabinet Member for the Environment and Welsh Language, said: ‘We welcome the progress made by the partnership, particularly in view of recent news that new petrol and diesel cars will not be sold in the UK after 2030. This innovative approach will help us to switch to a low carbon future and promoting sustainable transport as we respond to the climate change emergency.’

Work is underway and should be operational for the trial in July. A hydrogen-ready smart hybrid heating system is also being designed and will be installed and tested in an operational Port building.

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Council’s building maintenance teams to resume non-emergency responsive repairs

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THE HOUSING Building Maintenance teams within Pembrokeshire County Council are now able to re-commence non-emergency responsive repairs to customers’ homes around the County.

Lockdown has prevented tradesmen and women from entering homes to carry out anything other than emergency repairs for many months but the PCC Contact Centre is now able to take calls from customers to request a non-emergency service in their homes once more.

The Contact Centre receives around 38,000 building maintenance related service requests each year and even throughout lockdown Building Maintenance have proudly maintained a 99.2% success rate in responding to emergency repairs within 24hours since restrictions came into force.

Covid has caused a large disruption to the service and while the authority is now in a position to re-open phone lines to routine responsive repairs, a delay in providing that service is inevitable as the backlog is worked through but the authority is working hard to meet the demand.

Backlog is likely to take several months and is dependent on a number of factors including the numbers of repair requests received, availability of materials and contractors.

PCC currently employs 64 tradesmen and women directly and has a considerable number of contractors on its framework to undertake a wide range of maintenance works and Building Maintenance are in the process of tendering a New Minor Works Framework.

All maintenance employees and contractors will continue to work under strict guidelines in people’s homes to ensure that all safety and social distancing measures are adhered to.

The Housing Building Maintenance service is also in the final stages of implementing ‘Repair Finder’ which will enable Contact Centre staff to diagnose the faults in customer’s homes far quicker and more accurately than before, which will in turn ensure that Building Maintenance are better informed and resourced ahead of arriving at the property to carry out the repair.

This is expected to reduce the length of calls to the Contact Centre and subsequently reduce call-waiting times.

The ‘Repair Finder’ tool is expected to be available later in the year and will soon offer residents direct access to an online version which will enable them to report responsive repairs themselves.

Once trialled and released, service requests can be logged by the tenant via the Council’s ‘Housing Online’ portal.

When residents report a problem within their home via the Call Centre or ‘Repair Finder’, they will receive text message alerts informing them of the timescales within which they can expect the repair to be made.

Cabinet member for Housing, Cllr Michelle Bateman said: “We’re under no illusion that lockdown measures have caused a major disruption to the building maintenance service.

“We’re receiving new requests now on top of those that have been on standby during the Covid restrictions. Pembrokeshire residents have shown tremendous patience and understanding of services that have been stretched throughout the crisis so we’re counting on their ongoing support and we hope they appreciate that it will take a period of time to get back to where we were.

“People can be assured that we are working very hard to bring back the outstanding levels of service we provided before Covid and it’s things like ‘Repair Finder’ that will help make this possible going forward.

“With one in every six employed people in Pembrokeshire working for the local authority, it’s important to remember that we are very much in this together”.

If you wish to report a repair to your home you can call the Contact Centre on 01437 764551.

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Leader’s update: Keep doing your bit to prevent Covid-19 spreading

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THE LATEST from the Leader of Pembrokeshire County Council, Cllr David Simpson.

Hello everyone, I hope you have had a good weekend and enjoyed some of the lovely weather we have had.

Pembrokeshire is beautiful in all weathers but there’s nowhere quite like it when the sky is totally blue and the sun shining. Fingers crossed for more lovely weather this summer.

Let me firstly apologise for the late message this week but our focus has been working hard on the situation with a cluster of Covid-19 cases in Tenby.

It is not a surprise that we are starting to see a rise in cases following the easing of restrictions but the cluster of 22 confirmed cases as of yesterday (Monday) shows just how important it is for us all to keep following the rules to prevent further spread.

Council Leader, Cllr David Simpson (Pic PCC)

Our Test, Trace and Protect teams have worked tirelessly to contact close contacts and break the chain of infection in a complex situation.

Working closely with Public Health Wales and Hywel Dda University Health Board we have now got a mobile testing unit in place at the Salterns Car Park in Tenby.

The full address is Salterns Car Park, Marsh Road, Tenby, SA70 8DU.

If you have symptoms of Covid-19 – even if you have had the vaccine – please arrange to get a test.

Previously, only those with either a high temperature, a new continuous cough, or a loss/change of taste and smell, were advised to seek a test.

But across Pembrokeshire, people with any of the following wider symptoms that are persistent and/or unusual for should also get a PCR test:

  • Mild summer cold type symptoms – including sore throat, runny nose, headache
  • Flu-like symptoms, including myalgia (muscle ache or pain); excessive tiredness; persistent headache; runny nose or blocked nose; persistent sneezing; sore throat and/or hoarseness, shortness of breath or wheezing
  • Generally feeling unwell and a history of being in contact with a known Covid-19 case
  • Any new or change in symptoms following a previous negative test

If you have any of the above symptoms, please stay home and book a test by calling 119 or through the UK portal https://www.gov.uk/get-coronavirus-test

There are also a series of walk-in clinics for both first and second doses of the vaccines continuing this week.

See Hywel Dda Health Board on Facebook for more information.

As you will know, the First Minister on Friday set out further information on the ongoing Covid-19 situation.

Mr Drakeford paused further plans to relax restrictions as cases rise across Wales.

This should underline just how important it is for us all to maintain social distancing, keep washing hands regularly, meet people outside whenever possible and wear face coverings where required.

All these things work to prevent the spread of Covid-19.

We’ve all worked so hard to get to this point, let’s not let it slip now.

Stay safe everyone.

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