A 108-year-old woman from Carmarthenshire has become one of the first care home residents in Wales to receive a Covid-19 vaccine.Mary Keir, who lives at the Awel Tywi care home in Llandeilo, was given a first dose of the Pfizer/BionTech vaccine at 2.30pm on Thursday.Mrs Keir, Wales' second oldest woman, was the first care home resident in the Hywel Dda University Health Board region and across south Wales to be vaccinated.
Previously, Flintshire was the only county where care home residents had been given aCovid-19 vaccine.
Mrs Keir, a retired nurse, said: “I was ever so pleased because we all feel safer and better for having the opportunity."
"It didn’t hurt a bit and I’m used to injections anyway, both getting them and giving them."
“It’s for our own good so I think we should be thrilled because people have worked so hard to get the vaccine ready and we are all very thankful that it's here and ready to be used.”
Mrs Keir, who will turn 109 in March, was a ward sister at Llandough Hospital outside Cardiff, before, during and after the Second World War.
Originally from St Davids in Pembrokeshire, she later lived in Llansteffan in Carmarthenshire before moving into Awel Tywi nearly nine years ago.Describing the challenges of living in a care home during a global pandemic, Mrs Keir said: “We’ve just had to get on with it. You have to learn to accept what you cannot change, that’s always been my motto."She added: “It hasn’t been lonely as such as there’s always plenty of people about, but I have felt alone sometimes because you get used to people coming in to visit you."
"Of course I have missed that, but it will come back. It might take a while - we musn’t expect too much straight away - but it will come back.”
Steve Bird, Awel Tywi's registered care home manager, said that 37 residents received the vaccine on Thursday.
He said: “I feel honoured to be at one of the first care homes in Wales to receive the vaccine."“All the residents have been given hope that normality will return in the coming months which will allow them to meet and see more of their friends and families."“It’s been a long 10 months and without the understanding and support of the residents’ loved ones it would have made this journey a lot harder."“I am extremely grateful to my team of staff for all the sacrifices they have made to care and support our residents.”
The health board said that the vaccines administered in Llandeilo on Thursday are part of a “phased and careful roll-out” to care homes across the region.
There had been concerns about maintaining the stability of the Pfizer/BioNtech vaccine outside hospital vaccination centres as it usually needs to be stored at minus 70 degrees centigrade.Hywel Dda University Health Board is hoping that the vaccine will be available in other settings in the coming weeks, once learnings from Thursday’s pilot are capturedand assessed.Ros Jervis, Director of public health at Hywel Dda said: “Whilst today’s successful care home vaccination session is a significant moment for us here in west Wales, we are approaching the rollout to care home residents very carefully and with caution as welearn how to transport and administer this particularly tricky vaccine away from our main vaccination centre."“We know many of our care home residents will be anxious to access the vaccine as soon as possible."
"This is not the start of the vaccine roll out to all care home residents yet but being a part of this pilot will put us in a good place to start once learnings from the care home pilot has been captured.”
Dr Gill Richardson, chair of Wales’ Covid-19 vaccine programme also said that "the delivery of a Covid-19 vaccine to care home staff and residents has always been a priority for the Welsh Government.“We have been working for months to meet the challenges of distribution and believe we have a feasible solution which we will deploy at pilot sites from Wednesday.
"Care home staff have been offered immunisation at Health Board centres whilst awaiting the mobile model to commence.
Hywel Dda confirmed that a staged approach will see other groups of people offered a Covid-19 vaccine as further supplies become available.
People are reminded to wait for their invitation to receive their vaccine, which will be managed by the NHS.