A health board in Wales has admitted giving coronavirus vaccines to workers who are not on the front line.
The 326,000 frontline health care workers and social care workers, as well 40,250 elderly care home residents and staff, being vaccinated at the moment in Wales are in the top two priority groups.
But Swansea Bay Health Board has said that is has offered some vaccines to staff who have no patient interaction. It claimed the jabs would otherwise have been wasted.
The health board however refused to confirm or deny the claims of a source close to the health board who told WalesOnline that some members of the senior management team had received the vaccine despite not being frontline workers.
When WalesOnline approached the health board a spokeswoman confirmed that some non-frontlines staff had been vaccinated.
The spokeswoman said: “All vaccinations for NHS and social care staff are booked in advance and are for frontline staff only. However, there are times when a frontline worker is unable to attend their booked appointment. Because of the logistical constraints around the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, any unused vaccines at the end of each vaccination session would have to be discarded.
“We have a reserve list of frontline staff who are offered any unused vaccines first. Only then, if there are any vaccines left over, are other staff offered a vaccination. Therefore a small number of our non-frontline support staff have received Covid-19 vaccinations. This is by exception only, to make use of vaccines which would have otherwise been wasted.”
The health board said they understood that people would be distressed to hear this.
“We acknowledge that people who are waiting for their Covid-19 vaccinations may be distressed to hear that some non-frontline members of staff were vaccinated ahead of them,” said the spokeswoman for the health board. “We can give our firm assurances that our focus remains on vaccinating people in the priority groups as quickly as possible.
“As well as frontline staff vaccinations, everything possible is being done to continue to roll out the wider vaccination programme in the Swansea Bay area as quickly as we can. The arrival of a small quantity of the Oxford AstraZeneca vaccine this week, which is logistically much easier to manage, is greatly assisting this process. We hope that supplies will increase over the next few weeks.
“Community vaccinations are now well underway, with vaccinations taking place in care homes. GP surgeries will be sending out vaccination invitations to people aged over 80, and sessions will be starting within days. The mass vaccination centre at Margam Orangery will be ready next week and the one in Gorseinon the week after.
“In the meantime, please do not contact your GP practice, they will contact you as soon as they are ready to start.”
Plaid Cymru have called for clarity on the processes in place to avoid wastage and said that the Welsh Government should look at international examples of good practice.
Plaid Cymru shadow minister for health, Rhun ap Iorwerth MS said: “In an open letter to the Health Minister this week, I sought clarity on the prioritisation arrangements within the health and care sector. It is vital that the system is rigorous in ensuring that the vaccine goes to those who are patient facing and therefore at most risk.
“As for doses left over at the end of the day, in the same letter to Government I drew attention to international examples of good practice, including allowing prepared vaccines to be given on a ‘first come first served’ basis to the general public at the end of the day. This is something we could do in Wales to ensure not a drop of vaccine is wasted!”
Wales has so far seen very little wastage despite the challenges associated with transporting the Pfizer jab. The latest figures suggest that 0.8% of samples have been thrown away, with some of those needing to be disposed of on arrival in Wales because of damage to the contents.
The targets were revealed by Health Minister Vaughan Gething as he gave the Welsh Government’s coronavirus briefing on Monday, January 11. Follow live updates from that here.
The three milestones set out in the plan are:
By mid-February – all care home residents and staff; frontline health and social care staff; everyone over 70 and everyone who is clinically extremely vulnerable will have been offered vaccination. This is 740,350 people.
By the spring (which is March 20)– vaccination will have been offered to all the other phase one priority groups. This is everyone over 50 and everyone who is at-risk because they have an underlying health condition. This is 924,900 people.
By the autumn – vaccination will have been offered to all other eligible adults in Wales, in line with any guidance issued by the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI). This is 1,098,100 people.