Health Minister Vaughan Gething says Wales is not ‘not behind the pace’ in the rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine and announced that 22 new vaccination centres would open across the country in the coming weeks.
The government’s vaccination programme has come under fire from opposition politicians after official figures released last week revealed 35,000 people (1.12%) of the population in Wales have received their first dose following the start of the programme in mid-December, the lowest of all four nations in the UK.
Over the same period Scotland vaccinated 1.7% of the population, followed by 1.6% in Northern Ireland and 1.4% in England.
Speaking at Monday’s government press briefing Mr Gething predicted the “first” priority groups in Wales, including care home residents, would be inoculated “at about the same time as every other UK nation”.
Mr Gething also pledged to publish more detail on numbers to give “a better indication of how we’re going through all those occupational groups”.
In the run up to Christmas Frontline NHS staff in Wales complained they were struggling to get access to the recently launched Pfizer/BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine, and Len Richards, the chief executive of Cardiff and Vale University health board, warned of “an indisputable supply and demand constraint” in an email and said access to the jab was being rationed because “the supply is so low”.
“…I appreciate everyone has questions, but I think that people at the end of this will see that we have not been behind the pace,” Mr Gething said.
“And actually, the significant acceleration that we’ll see over the coming weeks will give people even an even greater measure of confidence about the coming months.”
The minister confirmed that with the rollout of the second Covid vaccine (Oxford-AstraZeneca) from today, the number of mass vaccination centres in Wales will be increased to 22 and more than 60 GP surgeries will offer the vaccine and mobile units would be set up throughout Wales.
Health boards and local authorities would be writing to everyone in Wales with more information about the vaccine in the coming days, he confirmed.
“We are training a range of healthcare workers to give the vaccine and we have plans to work with local pharmacists, dentists and optometrists to provide vaccination clinics.
Confirming the Pfizer vaccine will continue to be made available at mass vaccination centres across Wales, Mr Gething added: “These two vaccines offer us a path out of this pandemic. But it will take a huge effort and time to vaccinate everyone. We are not out of the woods yet.”
Meanwhile, Public Health Wales has confirmed a further 25 deaths due to COVID-19 and 1,898 new positive tests for the virus in today’s update.
10 of the newly reported deaths were in Cwm Taf Morgannwg health board area. There were also six further deaths in the Aneurin Bevan health board, five in Swansea Bay and three in the Hywel Dda area.
In the seven days up to 30 December there have now been 14,223 cases of coronavirus across Wales.
Cardiff (204) had the highest number of new infections in today’s report, followed by Bridgend (178) and Rhondda Cynon Taf (156).
Bridgend also has the highest weekly case rate at 907.2 per 100,000 people and the highest positive test proportion at 36.5% per 100,000 tests.
The weekly case rate across the country is currently 451.1 and the test proportion is 25.6%.