‘We draw nothing out of an English buffer’: Drakeford brands Hancock claims about Welsh success ‘factually untrue’
The First Minister has branded Matt Hancock’s claim that Wales has been able to vaccinate at the fastest rate in the world because they could always depend on England’s stock if they ran out “factually untrue”.
Speaking on Newsnight, Mark Drakeford said that “we draw nothing out of an English buffer” and that the success of the program in Wales was down to the way it had been “organised and delivered”.
Host Kirsty Wark asked: “Matt Hancock seemed to suggest that it was a general buffer that was helping you out, rather than you doing something special here to ensure that so many people are vaccinated?”
Mark Drakeford replied: “Hm! Well, it’s simply factually untrue. We draw nothing out of an English buffer. We manage our own stocks and the fact that we have some of the best vaccination rates in the world is just because of the way the program in Wales has been organised and delivered.”
Matt Hancock made the contested claim while appearing in front of a committee of MPs yesterday to answer questions about his handling of the coronavirus pandemic.
He said during giving evidence that Wales could jab people faster as they didn’t have to worry about having a backup supply if they ran out, as they could simply use England’s.
But the Welsh Government rejected that, saying: “The success of our world-beating vaccine programme is due to excellent planning and the sheer hard work and dedication of the vaccine teams around Wales.
“It is wrong to suggest we are reliant on an ‘English buffer’ as we hold our own and actually deliver a smaller proportion of vaccine to our centres than other UK nations.
“We are simply more efficient in using our supply with minimal wastage to ensure people in Wales are protected from Covid as quickly as possible.”
Matt Hancock was responding to a question by Labour MP Graham Stringer yesterday who asked why “Wales, not just in the United Kingdom, but it’s comparable to any country in the world, in terms of the number of vaccinations it’s got out as a percentage”.
“And the conclusion they came to was that they had stopped holding stock and as soon as they got the vaccinations they got them into people’s arms.
“And England, Scotland and Northern Ireland don’t seem to have been doing that – is that not a solution to Greater Manchester and anywhere else that is suffering increased infections.
“That the country stops holding on, that there may be problems in the future, but getting those vaccinations into people’s arms is a good thing?”
Matt Hancock answered to say he was “grinning because I’m working out whether to give you the full answer”.
“Because I very much like my colleagues in Wales and although we’re different parties running – devolved administrations and running the UK Government – there is a very clear answer to why this happened,” he said.
“And because you asked so nicely I’m going to set it out. And then I will phone up my new Welsh opposite number afterward.
“The reason is this: That we need to ensure that whatever happens in terms of security of supply, that there is enough vaccine for people to get their second doses. So we ensure that there is enough of a buffer that we can be confident that people will get their second doses.
“Now, it’s a judgement how big that buffer needs to be. Um, our colleagues in Wales, as you say, decided to hold no such buffer, and go ahead on the presumption that supply would come through.
“But they also knew that if there was an interruption to supply that England’s buffer would be used to ensure that nobody in Wales would miss their second vaccination.
“Now that is not a – that is not a decision I could make for England, because I can’t draw on anybody else’s buffer. So I suppose what this demonstrates is the value of the UK-wide vaccination programme and the fact that we’ve taken a whole of the UK approach benefits everybody including in Wales.
“It enormously benefits everybody living in Scotland because we were able to procure on behalf of the whole United Kingdom. And I would argue that the vaccination programme demonstrates that the union saves lives. And in the case of Wales the Union has helped them to have one of the fastest vaccination programmes in the world. And I wish them every luck in the dellivery of it.”