Since the UK Government began rolling out the coronavirus vaccine in England, I have received an unprecedented volume of correspondence from elderly and vulnerable people who are anxious to know what is happening with the immunisation programme in Wales. I thought this would be the quickest way of updating everyone who contacted my office.
It is right that the first priorities for any COVID-19 vaccination programme should be the prevention of COVID-19 mortality and the protection of health and social care staff and systems. I welcome the work that the Joint Committee for Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) has done to ensure this, and I understand that the vaccine will be rolled out to the priority groups including care home residents and staff, people over 80 and health and care workers, then to the rest of the population in order of age and risk, including those who are clinically extremely vulnerable. I know that work is continuing to set out future priorities and I will be studying this carefully.
A total of 327,000 doses – 280,000 of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine and 47,000 doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca jab – have now been delivered to the Welsh NHS. The latest figures from Public Health Wales show 86,000 doses had been administered by 22:00 on Sunday: https://public.tableau.com/profile/public.health.wales.health.protection#!/vizhome/RapidCOVID-19virology-Public/Headlinesummary
I fully share concerns regarding the slow progress being made and it is very worrying that fewer people per head of population have been vaccinated in Wales than every other home nation. It is vital the Welsh Government leads an efficient and effective vaccine strategy rather than this “stuttering start”.
I have personally raised my disappointment with First Minister Mark Drakeford about the lack of information being conveyed and attach copies of the various letters I have written. My colleague Paul Davies MS, who leads the Conservatives in the Welsh Parliament, has also called for a vaccines minister to be appointed with specific responsibility for overseeing the roll-out.
The Welsh Government finally unveiled its vaccine strategy earlier today: https://gov.wales/covid-19-vaccination-strategy
You can watch Health Minister Vaughan Gething’s press conference here: https://twitter.com/WelshGovernment/status/1348604539046293505
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.
- By spring – 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.
- By 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).
I understand the aim is to cover 2.5 million people by September. Vaccination numbers will now be published daily and the number of mass vaccination centres will rise from 22 to 35 with support from military personnel. According to the plan, the number of GP surgeries delivering vaccines will be increased from around 100 to more than 250 by the end of January. There is also a suggestion pharmacies could be used to deploy the vaccine at a more local level.
The UK Government has been encouraging devolved nations to publish a daily tally of the total number of vaccines, which will quickly highlight any problems that occur and put ministers in every nation under pressure to drive this forward. As one of those ministers, I welcome it.
I do hope this answers a lot of your questions and we will now see a rapid ramping up of the vaccine delivery in Wales to protect people in all parts of the country. Pleased be assured my colleagues and I will monitor progress and hold the Welsh Government accountable to the milestones outlined today.