The Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine will begin to be rolled out in Wales in the New Year, the First Minister has said.
The vaccine is easier to distribute than the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine given the go-ahead in December, and enough doses have been ordered to cover vaccinate the entire population.
The Welsh Conservatives noted that the vaccine was “Welsh-made” with parts of the process of its creation taking place in the north of Wales. The vaccine is being produced at the Wockhardt UK Ltd in Wrexham.
“We’re very pleased that the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine has been given the go-ahead,” the First Minister Mark Drakeford said.
“Over 25,000 vaccines have already been administered in Wales and this second vaccine will start to be rolled out here in the New Year.”
The new vaccine can be stored in a fridge, unlike the Pfizer-BioNTech jab which needs storage at -70C, so it will be easier to get the Oxford vaccine to care homes and GP surgeries.
Commenting on the news, Welsh Conservative Shadow Health Minister Andrew RT Davies said it was “incredible news”.
“It will hopefully be a very happy new year though with this vaccine being a turning point in our fight against Covid-19, with it being able to be transported at fridge temperatures.
“The vaccine is one truly made by the UK, with research funded by the UK Government, developed in England and the different aspects of the vaccine being made in North Wales and Scotland.”
‘Not an instant fix’
The Welsh Government said that the effects of the vaccines may not be seen nationally for many months and the advice on keeping Wales safe remains the same for everyone; keep contacts with other people to a minimum, keep a 2 metre distance from others, wash hands regularly, wear a face covering where required and avoid touching surfaces others have touched, wherever possible.
Health Minister Vaughan Gething said: “We understand there are high expectations and excitement at the arrival of a second vaccine. However it will take time to reach everyone as this is not an instant fix. We won’t receive all the doses at once and we have to be realistic about the scale and pace of delivery when we are vaccinating the entire adult population.
“We will not see the impact of the vaccine for some months and the pressure on the NHS will continue during this winter. It is essential that we all continue to play our part and do the right thing to protect each other.
“Nobody will be left behind by our NHS. To help the NHS to help you please wait to be invited for your vaccination.”
Senior Responsible Officer for Wales’ COVID-19 Vaccine Programme Dr Gillian Richardson said: “The vaccine has been approved as safe and effective by the MHRA, based on the same high standards as applied to all medicines and vaccines.
“It is great news that a second vaccine has met strict standards of safety, quality and effectiveness set out by the MHRA.”
Dr Nicola Williams, Director of Support and Delivery at Health and Care Research Wales, which is nationally co-ordinating research and study-set up in Wales, said: “Our research community is working hard to provide the evidence we need to fight this pandemic and the approval of the Oxford AstraZeneca vaccine is an important step forward. We have two further vaccines being tested in Wales right now, with more trials due to be set up in the coming weeks and months.
“This research, alongside the other COVID-19 studies taking place will help us to not only protect the most vulnerable but also to provide the best care possible for those who become ill.
“I’m proud of the role our researchers in Wales have played in this UK-wide effort and I would like to thank the participants too who have volunteered. Together we can make a real difference.”