Covid-19 vaccines: Health minister accused of 'misleading' over claim

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image captionVaughan Gething said he made an "honest mistake" with his figures

The health minister has been accused of "misleading" people after claiming the majority of over 80s had been vaccinated against Covid-19.

Vaughan Gething said he understood most people in the age group had received their first dose of the vaccine.

Figures show there have been 43,879 doses issued - 23.9% of the priority group.

The Welsh Conservatives accused him of misleading people, but Mr Gething said he had made an "innocent mistake".

According to Public Health Wales figures, the total number of first dose vaccinations has reached 190,435 in Wales - 6% of the population.

The figures also show 86,717 front-line health workers have also been given a first dose.

More than half of care home residents and two thirds of care home workers have also had their first doses.

'We need an urgent statement'

In a virtual session of the Senedd on Tuesday, Mr Gething appeared to contradict the figures, saying it was his "understanding" that the vaccine roll out had reached "the majority" of Wales' over 80s population.

Mr Gething also told the Welsh Parliament that he expected 70% of over 80s in Wales and 70% of care home residents and staff to receive their first jab by the end of this weekend.

Welsh Conservative health spokesman Andrew RT Davies accused Mr Gething of misleading the Senedd, saying: "We need an urgent statement from the health minister clarifying the situation."

Mr Gething has since admitted making "an innocent mistake" and said: "There was a minor amount of confusion about the difference between care home residents, where we had vaccinated a majority, and over 80s."

He said that vaccination for that cohort is a "significant priority" and he was still "positive" that the target to vaccinated 70 per cent by the end of the week can be achieved.

He added that over 70s would be contacted soon, "I fully expect that every health board will be inviting people over 70 to come forward for their vaccination over the next week."

Plaid Cymru's health spokesman Rhun ap Iorwerth said that Mr Gething's aim to have over 70% of over 80s would have the jab by the end of the week, would have been "quite a task in three days".

"The health minister should explain if he thinks we're still on track. Communication is key in building public trust," he added.

In total, 9,364 (56%) of care home residents and 20,087 (67.5%) of care home workers have been given a first dose.

The aim is for 70% of the over 80s and care home residents to be given a first dose of vaccine by 24 January.

There are another 30,388 people, not designated, who have been given first doses. These include social workers and some in the main priority groups, where the data is not quite ready to be included.

Health officials also say there is a time lag - which can be up to five days - between the day a person is vaccinated and when the recorded data is checked and finally published.

This week, more than 60,000 doses of the Pfizer BioNtech vaccine and 90,000 of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccines to hospitals and GP practices would be rolled out.

'Very focused'

Asked if he shared the same confidence as the health minister that they could meet the 70% target by the weekend, Wales' chief pharmaceutical officer said he expected the roll-out to increase further, particularly as GPs would be prioritising the over 80s and care home residents into the weekend.

These include GPs vaccinating into the evening and over the weekend, although it could again be a few more days before those doses finally show up on the officially published data.

"I'm very confident that the numbers will be reflected for the over 80s by the end of the week," said Andrew Evans.

"We know that GPs across Wales are very keen to get their hands on the vaccine and, as it has happened, supply hasn't been able to meet their demand so we're confident there's the capacity and the system."

"We're all very focused on making sure we offer as many people in those [priority] groups get the vaccine as quickly as possible."

Responding to criticism that the Welsh Government was falling behind other nations in administering the vaccine, Mr Evans said that Wales was moving as quickly as possible.

He explained that there were challenges around transportation and storage of the Pfizer BioNtech vaccine which has to be kept at ultra-low temperatures in specialist centres.

Mr Evans also said that plans for the Oxford AstaZenca vaccine were based on the allotted number that they received by Public Health England each week.

"We get an indication week of what allocation we're getting for next week for the AstraZenca of vaccine," he added.

"It doesn't have the same shelf-life problems that the Pfizer vaccine does, so it's not the case that every dose delivered gets delivered immediately, but we know that all the professionals who are involved in the programme are ensuring that as much vaccine as they get is used within a week of receiving it."

More people have now had the first dose of the vaccine than the number - 185,035 - who have tested positive for Covid-19.

Meanwhile, weekly figures - up to Sunday - show the vaccine roll-out across different parts of Wales, by health board.

The rates of first doses to Welsh residents range from 4.4% of the population in north Wales to 5.8% in Powys.

Mr Evans said the amount of vaccine a health board might have at any one time reflected the capacity or number of appointments it might have booked for its vaccination centres.

"That's what explains some of the variation in uptake between areas in Wales," he added.

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