Wales is ‘fastest-moving nation’ with vaccine rollout, Health Minister says

Adam Hale and Claire Hayhurst, PA
·4-min read

Wales has vaccinated more of its population that the rest of the UK in the past week, the country’s Health Minister has said.

Vaughan Gething said the latest vaccination figures demonstrated the “rapid progress” of the Welsh rollout, but stressed the country was not in a “race” with the other nations.

Public Health Wales figures on Wednesday showed 462,497 first doses of the Covid-19 vaccine had now been given out, an increase of 22,857 from Tuesday, while the number of second doses rose by 94 to 1,160.

It means Wales has now given an initial dose of vaccine to 14.7% of its population of more than 3.1 million people.

In the seven days to February 1, Wales carried out 150,074 first doses, which is the equivalent of 4.8% of its population, while in England the figure was 4.3%, Northern Ireland 3.7% and Scotland 3.2%.

Mr Gething told the Welsh Government’s press briefing the rollout was going from “strength to strength” thanks to an army of staff involved made up of NHS workers, GPs, the military, local authorities and volunteers.

“In the last week we vaccinated more people, as a percentage of our population, than any of the other UK nations,” he said.

“But this isn’t a race between countries of the UK. This is a race against the virus. And it is one where we are making rapid progress.”

Latest figures show 78.9% of those over 80 have received their first dose of the vaccine in Wales, along with 76.9% of care home residents and 80% of care home staff.

A total of 51.1% of those aged between 75 and 79 have received a first dose, along with 21.5% of people aged between 70 and 74.

Mr Gething said Wales was “on course” to meet Cardiff Bay’s target of offering vaccines to the top four priority groups in Wales by the middle of February, with more clinics offering Covid jabs from this week and the military loaning an additional 90 personnel to help staff mass vaccination centres.

But despite the Welsh Government previously saying that all care homes and staff would be vaccinated by the end of January, it has since transpired that the definition does not include adult care homes that care for residents with disabilities.

Asked what his message was to those in adult care homes who were expecting to be included in the target, Mr Gething said he understood the “quite natural human anxiety” of wanting to be earlier in the queue.

But he said the programme was “not going to forget you, and we’re going to get to you even faster than we were a few weeks ago because of the pace of our programme.”

He added: “I think people in Wales can take real pride in the fact that Wales is the fastest-moving nation on vaccination over not just the last week but also the last two weeks.”

Mr Gething also said 13 cases of the South African variant had been identified in Wales, including three newly discovered cases in Anglesey and Conwy in North Wales and one in Neath Port Talbot, South Wales.

Weekly rate of new Covid-19 cases in Wales
(PA Graphics)

Ten of the cases have clear links to either South Africa or to international travel, he said, while there was “no clear evidence” of how the other three caught the mutated virus.

Detailed and forensic investigation into each of the cases was ongoing as well as whether there is any evidence of wider community spread, but Mr Gething said there were currently no plans to introduce community testing across whole local authority areas.

Meanwhile Mr Gething also said it was “too uncertain” to say that people will be able to enjoy a summer holiday abroad this year.

“I’m optimistic that people will be able to have a holiday break of some kind over the summer, I wouldn’t want to forecast where that would be though,” Mr Gething said.

“We know many people are opting to stay within Wales or the UK but the challenge is that we know that from this summer, international travel to mainland Europe caused lots of mixing and a reintroduction of coronavirus into the UK.”

He added: “I don’t think we’re going to go back to the days we would have enjoyed, say a year-and-a-half ago. I don’t want to get too fixed on foreign travel for holidays at any point in the future because I just think that’s too uncertain.”

On Wednesday Public Health Wales said there were a further 455 cases of coronavirus in Wales, taking the total number of confirmed cases to 193,981.

It reported another 50 deaths, taking the total in Wales since the start of the pandemic to 4,832.

The country’s seven-day case rate was 127 cases per 100,000 of the population.