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FiveThirtyEight data expert Nate Silver backs ‘rational’ Welsh vaccination plan over US equivalents

18 Dec 2020 3 minute read
“Nate Silver in Conversation with NY1’s Pat Kiernan” on the YP Stage on Day 1 of Internet Week New York May 18, 2015. Picture by Gary He (CC BY 2.0).

American statistician and FiveThirtyEight Editor-in-Chief Nate Silver has backed Wales’ vaccination plan, saying that it is “more rational” than that of the US.

Many states in the US have decided to prioritise front line workers before moving on to those with the highest health risks of dying from Covid-19 in the spring.

In Wales meanwhile, residents of care homes and their carers have been priorities, then over 80s and frontline health workers, and then other age groups in descending order, starting with over 75s.

“The Wales plan is more rational than any of the US plans I’ve seen,” Nate Silver said.

“You could probably start mixing in teachers/other essential workers around, say, the people-over-65 group. But the fatality rates are SO much higher for older people that they ought to be prioritized IMO.

“The Wales plan also has the proper prioritization of older people vs. people with pre-existing conditions. Very few pre-exiting conditions increase your mortality risk from COVID-19 as much as simply being old.”

He was responding to amateur epidemiologist and University of Noth Carolina Professor Zeynep Tufekci who posted a screenshot to Wales’ plans and compared them with those of US states.

“Given the data over the last year, and shown in this thread, I will be eternally perplexed if the US doesn’t choose to vaccinate the elderly first and foremost, along with those who take care of them directly,” she said.

“Check out the attached prioritization of Wales, which makes sense.”



The first care homes in Wales received the Covid-19 Pfizer/BionTech vaccine this week.

Providing it for care home residents had not been possible last week because of the requirement for the vaccine to be stored at minus 70 degrees celsius.

The trial programme will allow health boards to take the vaccine to homes with at least five residents, rather than using it only in static vaccination centres.

The Welsh Government said it would take a number of days to train staff and ensure procedures are drawn up.

At first the vaccine will be issued to care homes in close proximity to hospital pharmacies, but it is planned for the vaccine to be available in other settings in the coming weeks.

Today the Welsh Government said that they were advising care home residents that they will be required to self-isolate for 14 days if they chose to spend time away from the home during the Christmas holidays.

In a written statement, Julie Morgan MS, Deputy Minister for Health and Social Services, also says any decision to visit outside the care home should be made after discussions involving the care home provider, the resident and their family.

“The need to balance people’s rights and support their well-being with the need to protect people living in care homes from the risk of infection remains very challenging,” she said.

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