The first COVID-19 vaccinations will begin across Wales today, the Welsh Government has confirmed.
They said that Wales was the first country in the world to receive supplies of the vaccine last week, and has today become one of the first to begin protecting people against coronavirus.
The Welsh Government and NHS said they had been preparing for today since June. The start of the vaccination programme comes just days after the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) approved the first Covid-19 vaccine for use.
Some 40 million doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine will be available across the UK, with Wales getting its allocation based on its population. In the first wave of vaccine deliveries, Wales will receive enough to vaccine nearly 20,000 people twice.
All health boards will start administering vaccines to care home staff, those over 80 years and frontline health and social care workers most at risk – over 6,000 doses will be given by the end of this week.
Despite the specific storage and preparation challenges posed by the vaccine, work continues to ensure a safe deployment of an effective vaccine to care home residents, the Welsh Government said.
“Last week, Wales was the first country in the world to receive supplies of the COVID-19 vaccine,” First Minister Mark Drakeford said.
“Today, I’m very proud Wales has become one of the first countries in the world to begin the roll-out of the vaccine to its population.
“2020 has been a very difficult year for all of us. This vaccine is a small glimmer of light at the end of what has been a long and dark tunnel.
“But the fact we have a vaccine does not mean we can stop doing those things that keep us safe. We must all continue to do our bit to prevent the spread of coronavirus: regular hand washing, social distancing, and wearing a face covering where required to protect yourself and others.”
Health Minister Vaughan Gething said that vaccines can take many years, even decades, to develop.
“The fact that a safe and effective vaccine has been developed in less than year is a remarkable tribute to all scientists and researchers around the world who have worked so hard to find a vaccine for COVID-19,” he said.
“We have been working really hard to plan for its arrival. Today, the first people in Wales will receive the vaccine. This is the positive news we have all been waiting for.
“We will now do everything we can to ensure we successfully deliver the COVID-19 vaccine across Wales in the days, weeks and months ahead.”
Commenting on the announcement today that care-home residents and staff would not be in the first tranche of people to receive the Covid vaccine, Andrew RT Davies – the Shadow Minister for Health – said:
“The news that residents and staff of care homes will be lower down the list of people to receive the vaccine will come as a bitter blow to many people in Wales.
“Care homes are an enclosed community, and the reasons why these people – among the most vulnerable people in Wales – will not be some of the first in line needs a fuller explanation.
“Also, we’ve seen that the figures outlined today suggest higher cases of Covid in Wales.
“We, not just Welsh Conservatives but I’m sure all people in Wales, want to see detailed plans of how the administration here will address this. However, we have been calling for the publication of a detailed Winter plan for how the virus will be managed for months, and we’re still waiting.”