Care home owner says a vaccine would help 'change people's lives for the better'

  • Watch our report by Carole Green.

Staff at a care home in north Wales have said that a coronavirus vaccine could help "improve the lives" of residents and care workers during what has been a "difficult year" for the sector.

Wales' First Minister Mark Drakeford announced on Friday that the Pfizer vaccine would start being used for priority groups from Tuesday, with workers and residents at care homes near the top of that list.

The Chief Medical Officer for Wales Dr Frank Atherton had also stated that the vaccine was ready for the sector at a press conference on Wednesday, with health and social care workers amongst the first wave to receive the vaccinations.

The news has since been welcomed in the sector with the owner of St David's Residential Home in Rhyl saying it will help provide people with some "comfort".

Ruth Waltho, the owner of the residential home, said it had been a tough year for staff and residents.

"It would be absolutely amazing - the last few months have been really difficult and I think it would change people’s lives here," Ruth explained when discussing the rollout of the vaccine.

"Staff have gone above and beyond they have been fantastic and have worked so hard but there is always a concern for them.

"I think the vaccine will take pressure off staff and they will be able to work freely with residents and will be able to see them enjoying their stay and enjoying seeing their families again. It would be good for them to see life getting back to normal again. 

"It has been a long journey but hopefully we can see light at the end of the tunnel and we can see people enjoying their lives again."

Staff at the care home have said that a vaccine would help them feel more comfortable going to work.

Ruth explained that she is still waiting for clarity on when the vaccinations at the care home will start but she claimed officials told her it could be as early as the second week of December.

"We haven’t had clarity yet and we need it. Everybody is excited but we don’t know when it is going to happen."

Another worker at the care home said that she has struggled with the "constant fear" of giving coronavirus to residents when she goes to work.

Emily Jones has worked at the care home for seven years.

Emily Jones is the deputy manager at the home, having worked there for seven years, and she has said she is regularly "concerned" over the welfare of the residents.

"It has been hard this year and the fear of thinking we could have coronavirus and could pass it on has been hard for workers. It has been a worrying time," she said.

"We are Covid free here at the home at the moment, we don't have any cases here so it shows we are all doing something right.

"A vaccine will bring us hope. The residents haven’t had visits from their family and friends it is really hard on them. Some understand the virus but others don't and it is that constant reminding them about the rules that has been very hard."

Nick Butler used to visit the home three times before coronavirus to visit his mother Chris, but he has now been limited to just one socially distanced visit every two weeks.

He said that usually the family would be planning a large Christmas gathering but that it would be "strange" not seeing everyone, including his mother, over the festive period.

Nick Butler said that he had to restrict the amount of times he was seeing his mother in her care home.

"This Christmas is going to be so strange without mum at home and my sons away with their families," he said.

"I think the vaccine that is coming will make such a difference for these residents. I was visiting three times a week and now it is once a fortnight.

"She doesn’t understand why she can’t come in and so it will make a big difference to her and others here."

Nick gets to see his mum Chris once every fortnight at a social distance.

Chris herself said that she hoped a vaccine would help her get back to some normality, revealing that she was missing the "little things".

"We have always been a hugging family and it is the little things that you really really miss. It has been like being in another world being away from the family," she said.

"It will, it will be nice to go out and speak to people on the streets and in the shops. Everybody is growing up and things are happening and you are missing all the fun bits at the moment."

Mr Drakeford made the latest announcement regarding the vaccination program in Wales at a press conference on Friday.

He stated that the first supplies of the Pfizer vaccine would be arriving in the country over the "coming days" and that vaccinations would start shortly afterwards.

First Minister made the announcement at a Welsh Government press conference on Friday.

"Our plans have been thoroughly tested and we expect to receive supplies in the next couple of days," he said.

"We are planning to begin vaccinating people from Tuesday, we hope it marks a turning point in the pandemic."

The Welsh Government has recognised that although care home residents are in the top priority group there are logistic issues with the storage of Pfizer vaccine that may prohibit them from receiving their vaccine straight away.

Welsh health minister, Vaughan Gething previously said: "Because of the particular characteristics of the Pfizer vaccine, we don't think we're going to safely take it to care homes. 

"In practical terms, some care home residents therefore won't be within the first few weeks of delivery of that vaccine."