The Welsh Government’s Health Minister has been asked if he is “surprised” that Wales has reached its vaccination target by a Sky News presenter.
Vaughan Gething was being interviewed by Gillian Joseph following the news that Wales will become the first country in the UK to reach the milestone of offering everyone in the first four priority groups a vaccination.
The NHS has confirmed everyone in the first four priority groups has been contacted to be offered a vaccination appointment.
If health boards have been unable to contact someone on the list, or if an appointment has been missed, systems are in place to go back and check and re-arrange a new appointment for anyone who wants to be vaccinated. The latest available figures show 684,097 people have received their first dose of the vaccine.
The Health Minister was asked: “Did you expect to meet this target? Are you surprised that you’ve realised the target that was set?”.
He said: “No, I’m not surprised. I’m tremendously grateful for the amazing work that our NHS-led programme has delivered here in Wales as partners in local government, volunteers and some military support too.
“We were always confident despite the slightly slower start in the first few weeks than other parts of the UK that we would be able to catch up very very quickly.
“Once we had both the Pfizer vaccine and the AstraZeneca vaccine available we could bring essentially general practice and other local healthcare offices on board with our vaccination centres, so it’s been a tremendous job of work and a real achievement, and should give everyone I think confidence that we will reach them too in the next state to get to the next five priority groups in the summer and into the autumn.
Mr Gething was then asked about people who have so far refuse the take the vaccine.
He said: “Well, we’re operating a leave no one behind approach. That means if you’ve missed your appointment that you can still rebook.
“We know that some people will have been ill and won’t be able to have attended, some people will have changed their mind, and the offer of the vaccine isn’t a once in a lifetime offer.
“If you’re saying no and you’ve changed your mind, we hope people will do because there are some groups that are more hesitant about taking the vaccine, then you can do that, and the NHS won’t leave you behind.
“So, I think that’s really important for the 92 per cent of people who have already had the vaccine in the first four groups that’s good news, for those who have yet to have it, that’s good news, and if you’re in that about 8 per cent to date that have yet to have it in those first four groups, don’t worry because the NHS won’t forget you. You won’t be left behind and you can still change your mind.”
Ms Joseph said: “But for those who refuse there’s nothing you can do is there?”
Mr Gething replied: “No indeed and vaccination is not compulsory. It is an offer to help protect people, for themselves, their family, their community and other people they may never get to meet.
“We know that without significant protection from the wider population then we will have to live with extraordinary measures long into the future.
“Vaccination is a key part of allowing us to recover a more normal way of living our lives and I for one will be ready and willing to have my vaccine when my turn comes and I think that’s really important, the confidence we all have in the safety and effectiveness of the vaccine, as well of course to paying tribute to the fantastic work that our NHS has done here in Wales.”
The leader of the Conservatives in the Senedd, Andrew RT Davies, said: “This is a true British and Welsh success story and I would like to thank everyone involved, especially our incredibly hard-working vaccination teams and armed forces who have gone above and beyond delivering the rollout programme.
“The UK Government’s bold decision to opt out of the disastrous EU scheme has now been fully vindicated and ensured Wales has had the vaccines available to meet this target and protect the most vulnerable in our society.
“There is still a long road ahead of us with second doses still to be administered to those most at risk and over three quarters of the population requiring their first jab, but this is a significant milestone we can all celebrate as we look to recover from the pandemic and rebuild Wales.”
Plaid Cymru’s Shadow Minister for Health, Rhun ap Iorwerth MS said: “Transparency is key in maintaining public trust. Everyone involved in the vaccine rollout has done a fantastic job in vaccinating 20 per cent of the Welsh population, but we need to see the flow of vaccines into the four UK nations, to have confidence that we are getting our fair share.
“I have repeatedly asked for the data on how much of each vaccination is distributed to all nations, in the spirit of transparency.
“The Health Minister has indicated he agrees, so the question is – when will this data be made publicly available, so that we can all have confidence that distribution is as open and fair as possible?”