The leader of Plaid Cymru has criticised the Welsh Government’s Covid-19 vaccination strategy.
Adam Price MS said “saving lives is more important than saving stocks” following the admission from First Minister Mark Drakeford that he was slowing down the rollout of the jab instead of it being administered as soon as possible.
Speaking on Radio 4 Today Mr Drakeford said that the supply, delivered by the UK Government, was limited and that the sensible thing was to use up the vaccine stock they had over the period that they had it.
“There would be no point and certainly it would be logistically damaging to use up all our vaccines in the first week and have our vaccinators standing around with nothing to do,” he said.
Mr Price said: “When it comes to vaccination policy, saving lives is more important than saving stocks. Vaccinating people as fast as possible is more important than keeping vaccinators occupied. We need fast and focused not slow and steady.
Plaid Cymru Shadow Minister for Health, Rhun ap Iorwerth MS added: “Wales appears now to be dramatically behind England in terms of vaccine rollout, so to see the First Minister being relaxed about the slow pace of the vaccine roll-out here is very, very frustrating.
“The most recent data from both NHS England and Public Health Wales demonstrates that Wales is lagging way behind. Figures from January 17 show that more than 3.7 million doses have been administered in England – almost half a million of which being second dose. In Wales figures from 16 January show 126,504 vaccines administered, including only 129 second doses.
“Comparing population sizes, if Wales was vaccinating at the same rate we’d have hit around 190,000. Comparing Wales and England isn’t always useful – for various reasons, we’re ahead on some things, and England ahead on others – it’s swings and roundabouts. But where it’s a four-nations programme, we need to know it’s a level playing field.
“Welsh Government must give an update on vaccines made available for Wales – of each type – plus numbers vaccinated in Wales compared to England, using the different types of vaccine, and on the projected supply of vaccines in the weeks to come. Why are we rationing here?
“Transparency is crucial at this stage so that progress can be measured, and that both governments can be held accountable and questioned on progress where needed.”
Asked on Radio 4 Today why Wales had the lowest rate of vaccination of all four nations, Mark Drakeford answered: “Well these are very marginal differences, and I don’t think it’s the most important issue.
“The most important issue is that we are on track to deliver vaccination to all the top four priority groups alongside all the other nations of the United Kingdom by middle of February.
“The thing that limits us at the moment is the supply. We are using every bit of the vaccine that we are getting. We know that supply will be ramping up rapidly over the coming weeks and we are ready to use all the supply of the vaccine that we will get in Wales, and on track to deliver the vaccination to the top four priority groups.”
A Welsh Government spokesperson said: “Every day in Wales, thousands more people are receiving their first dose of the Covid vaccine and the huge effort to rollout Wales’ biggest vaccination programme continues.
“It continues to accelerate with every week that passes and we are on course to hit our first milestone in February.
“The Pfizer vaccine comes in large packs, which cannot be split and must be stored at ultra-low temperatures at -70c. There are only two centres in Wales where we can keep them at this temperature.
“Once removed from storage, the vaccine lasts five-days. Every dose wasted is a vaccine which cannot be given to someone in Wales.
“Health boards are receiving all the doses of Pfizer they can use. We want to ensure a consistent supply of the vaccine to minimise wastage.
“Less than 1 per cent of the vaccines have not been used, way below the wastage rates normally seen for vaccines.”