At the time of writing (Tuesday), the UK has given 6.6 million people their first dose of the coronavirus vaccine – the third highest per head of any country in the world. Wales is lagging a bit behind England, but mass vaccination centres are now opening. Elderly residents in Monmouthshire are understandably concerned about being asked to travel to the centre in Cwmbran. A round trip of up to 50 miles in a car for a vulnerable person is a lot to ask. But my advice would be to please go if you can. Safety is paramount at the vaccination centres. One of the reasons why they have been located on sites such as the Cwmbran Stadium is to ensure social distancing can be maintained for large numbers of people. There is a need to wait afterwards for 15 minutes and the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, which is being used, requires careful storage at -70C. To quickly and safely deal with large numbers of people, a large site is needed. As more supplies of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine become available, more people will be able to receive their jabs closer to home. In the meantime, the emphasis is on speed to save lives and protect the NHS.
As a Conservative MP in the UK Government, I have no direct say over how the NHS in Wales is run. But I want to do everything possible to help the Welsh Labour Government meet its vaccination targets. I therefore say to everyone: Once you get an invitation to be vaccinated, please do everything possible to travel to the site, wherever that is, and get it done. I was deeply impressed by the dedication being shown by the NHS and armed forces who were vaccinating people in Abergavenny. We all owe it to them to do whatever we can to help. If that means a car journey across the county and some waiting around, then so be it.
Congratulations and a very happy birthday to Monmouth resident Amy Winifred Hawkins, who turned 110-years-old on Sunday. Born in 1911 and the oldest living person in Wales, I understand Mrs Hawkins attributes the secrets of a long and healthy life to good food, plenty of butter, keeping busy and lots of tea! It isn’t every day that somebody reaches such a remarkable milestone and achieves supercentenarian status no less! I send my personal best wishes to Mrs Hawkins and her family on this momentous occasion.
*Published in the Monmouthshire Beacon on 27 January 2021 and the Abergavenny Chronicle on 28 January 2021*