Politics

Wales hits COVID vaccine targets in UK first

Mark Drakeford, who has overseen the vaccine roll out in Wales.
University Hospital Wales, Mark Drakeford and a COVID-19 vaccine. Source: U.S. Secretary of Defense (via. Wikimedia Commons), Mick Lobb (via. Geograph) and CPMR (via. Wikimedia Commons).
By Morgan Perry | Political Editor

Wales has become the first nation in the UK to offer its top four priority groups a coronavirus vaccine, the Welsh Government has said. 

By the end of Valentine’s Day, all over 70s, as well as care home residents and workers, had been offered their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. 

First Minister, Mark Drakeford announced the news, and praised “everyone who had been working around the clock to reach this point”. 

Wales is currently leading the way in terms of coronavirus vaccinations, with nearly 23% of the population having received the first dose, and more than three quarters of a million jabs issued already.

In England, 21% of the population had been vaccinated as of February 11. The figure was 20.4% in Scotland and 19.7 in Northern Ireland. 

The news came in the same week that it had been announced that the rate of coronavirus in Wales had fallen below 100 cases-per-100,000 people for the first time since last year.

The next step in Wales will be to vaccinate the remaining five priority groups, which will first see all residents aged 65 and over, followed by all adults aged 16-64 with underlying health issues which put them at a higher risk of falling ill with the coronavirus. 

Welsh Health Minister, Vaughan Gething said a “leave no one behind” approach was being adopted, with the ambition of physically vaccinating all of those in the top four groups as quickly as possible.


Delays incoming

Despite the good progress, vaccine supplies are set to stall in the coming weeks, meaning there is likely to be a sudden downturn in the number of Welsh vaccinations.

The delay will be caused by a drop in the supply of the inoculation manufactured by Pfizer-BioNTech. 

As a result, four vaccination centres in Wales will close, and others will reduce their operating hours. Until now, school and community halls, hospitals and GP’s surgeries have all been commandeered as makeshift vaccination centres.  

Earlier this year, Drakeford and the Welsh Government came under fire for proposing a plan to slow the rate of vaccination in Wales, in order to factor in the reduction in available jabs.

The move was seen by some as highly controversial at the time but doesn’t appear to have hindered Wales’ initial vaccination programme. 

The Welsh Government has already said that it has planned and prepared for the sudden drop in the number of available vaccines, as have other UK nations. 

Speaking to the Senedd, Drakeford said: “We know that we are going to get less vaccine over the next few weeks than we have over the past few weeks.

“That was planned for and known for … we are confident that we will remain on track.”


“A great achievement”

Leader of the Welsh Conservative group in the Senedd, Andrew RT Davies said that hitting the milestone was “a great achievement”. 

“This is a significant milestone we can all celebrate as we look to recover from the pandemic and rebuild Wales”, he added. 

He also called on the Welsh Government to devise a “roadmap out of lockdown”. Ministers will, given the progress with vaccinations, undoubtedly wish to be cautious as they announce the next steps in lifting public health restrictions. 

Plaid Cymru, too, praised the roll-out, adding that the pro-independence party will continue to lobby for the roll-out of the vaccine to “those in all care settings, not just the elderly” 

They also argued in favour of “key workers in schools, the emergency services and public transport to be brought in to the priority system sooner.”

Follow @gairrhyddpol for all of the latest updates from the world of politics.

Politics Morgan Perry

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