Plaid Cymru has warned that “serious questions remain” on the Covid vaccine rollout in Wales.
The party’s health spokesperson, Rhun ap Iorwerth MS, said that Wales has been behind “every other UK nation” in terms of numbers vaccinated, as the rollout of the second Covid jab (Oxford-AstraZeneca) begins today.
The Member of the Senedd for Ynys Mon also called for “clarity” on the evidence for changing the protocols for vaccine delivery because he said the decision to delay the second dose for up to 12 weeks with both vaccines has caused “real concern” among doctors who fear it could dramatically undermine its effectiveness.
Wales’ Health Minister Vaughan Gething said the Welsh Government was “following the latest scientific advice” by delaying giving the second dose of a Covid vaccine to people who have received the first jab.
He has described the second Covid-19 vaccine as a “game changer” and says at least 40,000 doses are available within the first two weeks.
Plaid Cymru health spokesperson Rhun ap Iorwerth MS said: “I’m pleased that we now have a second vaccine being rolled out, but serious questions remain about the roll-out plans.
“Wales has been behind every other UK nation in terms of numbers vaccinated, and there’s far too much variation from region to region – Welsh Government musn’t allow a postcode lottery.
“And we must have clarity on the evidence base for changing the protocols for vaccine delivery – the decision to delay the second dose for up to 12 weeks with both vaccines has caused real concern among many doctors who fear it could dramatically undermine its effectiveness.”
Unlike the Pfizer BioNTech vaccine, the AstraZeneca vaccine is stored at normal vaccine fridge temperatures.
This means it will have few storage and transportation issues, making it much easier to use in community settings such as care homes and primary care settings like GP surgeries.
However, people are asked not to phone their GP, pharmacy or hospital asking when they will get a vaccine. When someone is in one of the groups eligible for the vaccine, they will be invited to attend a dedicated clinic.
Health Minister Vaughan Gething said: “Today marks a key milestone in our fight against the COVID-19 pandemic. The roll-out of the AstraZeneca vaccine has been called a ‘game changer’ and this is true – its potential should not be underestimated.
“In less than a month Wales’ NHS has mobilised the largest vaccination programme our country has ever seen and so far more than 35,000 people have received their first dose.
“Now, only 5 days since regulatory approval of the new vaccine for use in the UK, a second vaccine is here and ready for use, significantly adding to Wales’ defences in the face of coronavirus and protecting our most vulnerable.”
However, he warned 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 others to a minimum, keep a two metre distance from others, wash hands regularly, wear a face covering where required and avoid touching surfaces others have touched, wherever possible.”