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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.”

Education

Delight as foundation phase learners return to class

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PEMBROKESHIRE Headteachers have reported very positive returns to school for Foundation Phase Learners.

All Foundation Phase Learners returned to schools on Monday, March 1st and attendance has been reported at almost 90% since.

The Council’s Director for Education, Steven Richards-Downes, said: “A wide range of council services have worked together to ensure that Foundation Phase pupils have been able to return
safely to school.

“I am particularly grateful to all school staff and families for ensure that learning is now available for our youngest learners face to face.”

Headteachers remarked how schools have filled with smiles and laughter following the safe and phased return of Foundation Phase learners.

Cora O’Brien, Headteacher at Waldo Williams School in Haverfordwest emphasised how quickly learners have settled back in to a routine.

“It has been an absolute joy to hear their laughter in the playground and to observe their love of learning face to face once again. I thank everybody in the Waldo Williams School
community for working so hard to ensure that the transition went smoothly.”

Vicky Hart-Griffiths, Headteacher of Ysgol Hafan y Mor in Tenby, said: “It has been wonderful to welcome all our Foundation Phase learners back to school. They are thriving, being amongst
friends and back to a school routine.  

“All the pupils have spoken about how happy they are to have returned and it’s an absolute pleasure to welcome them back and we can’t wait until we have all our pupils back in school.

“The school feels alive again and there’s a positive buzz and laughter once again echoing throughout the school.”

Gareth Lewis, Headteacher at Broad Haven CP School said children had returned “with real enthusiasm, and have been very keen to meet up with their friends.”

Mr Lewis added: “Our parents have been very supportive and positive about the return, and those with older children are very much looking forward to a wider return to schooling.”

Mr Richards-Downes said plans were now turning to more learners returning to schools in the near future.

“We are looking to the next phases of the re-opening of schools on the 15th of March as long as the government guidelines allow.”

Further details will be released in due course.

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Pembrokeshire County Council: This week’s Leader’s coronavirus update

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PEMBROKESHIRE COUNTY COUNCIL Leader, Councillor David Simpson, has provided a further coronavirus update for Friday, 5th March as follows:

‘Welcome everyone to my weekly update.

“It is with rather a heavy heart that I tell you that it’s almost 12 months since my first statement on the coronavirus pandemic.

“On 9th March 2020, I addressed our Cabinet meeting with the following words:

“Further to the news yesterday that two people in Pembrokeshire had tested as positive for the Covid 19 virus, I am sure you will join me in wishing them both a speedy and full recovery.

“I can reassure you that our services will continue as usual, and all our employees can continue to attend to their work, appointments, schools and services as they normally would.

“We should all help protect ourselves and our communities by following Public Health Wales advice, particularly around washing hands and using a tissue for symptoms associated with cold and flu and then safely disposing of it.

“I am grateful to the co-operation and hard work of all of our staff and we will provide further updates and information when we have them.

“In the meantime I can confirm that detailed planning arrangements, both internally, with partner agencies and through the Dyfed Powys Local Resilience Forum, are well underway to ensure that the Council and Pembrokeshire are as well placed as possible for whatever challenges we may face. Thank you.”

“I am sure you will join me while I take a moment now to remember all those people in Pembrokeshire and further afield, who, very sadly, passed away since I made that announcement.

“I continue to be incredibly grateful, as I’m sure you are, to everyone who is helping to beat this pandemic, working so very hard now for over a year.

“We are fortunate now to be in a position where the vaccine programme is protecting older members of our community and starting to roll out among one of the biggest groups – the over 65s and those with underlying health conditions.

“This time next week (12th March) the Welsh Government will have notified us of their plans for the next three weeks.

“In the meantime, we remain in Alert Level 4 and the stay at home message continues to be more important than ever as we reach the threshold of better times.

“I wish you all a good weekend and thank you once again to the vast majority of wonderful Pembrokeshire residents who are doing the right thing and waiting patiently at home for restrictions to lift.

“We do really appreciate your efforts and determination to help bring this pandemic to an end.”

 

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Sergeant Hillier ‘died doing the job he loved’, says his heartbroken father

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THE ARMY SERGEANT who died after being injured in a live firing exercise, has been named locally.

The incident occurred at Castlemartin Training Area, and led to the death of Sgt Gavin Hillier, who was in the Welsh Guards.

In a post on social media, his father wrote: “Absolutely devastated to be writing this post, probably the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do.

“At 3.45am this morning I received a phone call that will forever change my life. My eldest son Gavin Mark Hillier was in a fatal accident yesterday in the army (the job he loved).

“Sleep tight & rest in peace son. I’m so proud of you. Goodnight and god bless, love your heartbroken dad.”

An Army spokesperson said: “It is with great sadness we can confirm the death of a soldier on March 4.

“Our thoughts are with his family and friends at this tragic time.

“The circumstances surrounding this death are being investigated and it would be inappropriate to comment any further.”

It is understood that Sergeant Hillier, who served as part of the Welsh Guards’ motor transport platoon, was due to be deployed to Iraq and had previously been awarded a Long Service and Good Conduct medal by Prince Charles, the regiment’s Colonel in Chief, in 2019.

The tragic incident is the latest in a number of accidents at Castlemartin.

In 2017, The Herald reported that two soldiers died in a tank explosion, which a coroner ruled was due to a design flaw.

The following year, an Army captain was jailed in July 2018 after a 21-year-old soldier was killed by a stray bullet during an exercise at the range in 2012.

An investigation has been launched into the death of a soldier at Castlemartin RAC Range following a military exercise.

Police were called to the site at just before 10.45pm on March 4.

Sadly, a man was pronounced dead shortly after. Our thoughts are with his family, who have been informed of the incident and are being supported by specialist officers.

An investigation is underway led by Dyfed-Powys Police. Officers are liaising with the Health and Safety Executive and MoD.

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