Drakeford praises ‘phenomenal effort’ Wales achieves vaccine target for first four priority groups

Wales has achieved its target of offering coronavirus vaccines to everyone in its first four priority groups, the First Minister has said.

Mark Drakeford (pictured) said the milestone is a “truly phenomenal effort” for the country’s vaccine rollout, which has so far seen 684,097 people receive their first dose.

In England, people in the top four priority groups have already been told to come forward for a vaccine if they want one, regardless of whether they have been contacted by their GP or the NHS with an appointment.

The Welsh Government previously said it would offer vaccines to those in the first four priority groups – residents and staff in care homes for older adults, frontline health and social care workers, all people 70 years old and over, and clinically extremely vulnerable individuals – by the middle of February.

On Friday, Mr Drakeford said: “To have achieved this first milestone and offered vaccination to everyone in the first four priority groups – those who are most vulnerable to coronavirus – is a truly phenomenal effort.

“I want to thank everyone who has been working around the clock to reach this point.”

Health minister Vaughan Gething said: “Every vaccine given to someone in Wales is a small victory against the virus, and we are already looking ahead to meeting our next milestone.

“The first milestone in our vaccination strategy set out that everyone in the first four priority groups will have been offered their first dose appointment by mid-February.”

Mr Gething added “not everyone in these groups will have attended their appointment yet”, and that “some will not have responded and some will have chosen not to have the vaccine”.

The Welsh Conservatives’ leader in the Senedd, Andrew RT Davies, said: “This is a true British and Welsh success story and I would like to thank everyone involved, especially our incredibly hard-working vaccination teams and armed forces who have gone above and beyond delivering the rollout programme.

“The UK Government’s bold decision to opt out of the disastrous EU scheme has now been fully vindicated and ensured Wales has had the vaccines available to meet this target and protect the most vulnerable in our society.

“There is still a long road ahead of us, with second doses still to be administered to those most at risk and over three-quarters of the population requiring their first jab, but this is a significant milestone we can all celebrate as we look to recover from the pandemic and rebuild Wales.”

The Welsh Government failed to hit an earlier target of vaccinating 70% of over-80s by January 24 – only managing 52.8% by that time – which ministers blamed on cold weather and snow.

On Wednesday, Wales became first UK nation to vaccinate more than 20% of its population, and one of the first countries in the world to do so, but Mr Drakeford has confirmed a planned reduction in vaccine supply is expected in Wales in the next few weeks.

But he said the country is still on track to complete the vaccination of those in the next five priority groups by the spring.

Public Health Wales said on Thursday that the total of first doses of the Covid-19 vaccine administered had increased by 28,678 in 24 hours.

The agency said 3,795 second doses have also been given, an increase of 108.

In total, 87.6% of over-80s in Wales have received their first dose, along with 84.2% of those aged 75-79 and 73.5% of those aged 70-74.

For care homes, 79.1% of residents and 83% of staff have received their first dose of the Covid-19 vaccine.

Copyright (c) PA Media Ltd. 2020, All Rights Reserved. Picture (c) Tom Martin / Welsh Government / Crown Copyright / PA.