Covid: Wales 'first in UK to hit February vaccine target'

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image captionA greater proportion of people in Wales have received a jab than other UK nations

Wales will be the first UK nation to have offered the top four priority groups a Covid jab, the Welsh Government has said.

Within hours, officials say, all over-70s including care home residents, will have been offered a first dose.

Wales and the other UK nations have aimed to hit the target by mid-February.

First Minister Mark Drakeford thanked "everyone who had been working around the clock to reach this point".

It follows a warning that vaccine supplies will fall in the coming weeks.

The UK Government's Welsh Secretary Simon Hart said Wales' milestone was "fantastic news" and testament to the continued effort made by NHS and military staff.

The country currently leads the UK in the percentage of the population that has received a first jab - at least 715,944 doses have been given out.

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image captionThere have been warnings that supplies could slow down

Figures up to Thursday night show 22.7% of the population have been vaccinated, compared to 21% in England, 20.4% in Scotland and 19.7% in Northern Ireland.

The picture is complicated by a built-in delay on data being published while figures are checked and verified.

There are also issues involving some care home residents having to wait for doses, because of isolation due to Covid outbreaks.

But Mr Drakeford said he was confident the programme remained on track - with plans remaining in place to reach the next five priority groups by the spring.

He said: "We're the first UK nation to reach this milestone, others will follow in a couple of days."

media captionFirst Minister Mark Drakeford says the success of the vaccine rollout is due to the "phenomenal effort" of all involved.

Asked how many people in those top groups who will not have had vaccine appointments by the weekend, he said it would be "a very small number".

"We've already completed 92% of all the people in those priority groups thanks to the amazing efforts of our NHS and other staff," he said.

"There will be some people who were ill when they were offered and need to be re-book. There will be some people who chose not to have a vaccine when they were first offered it, who may have changed their minds."

Mr Drakeford said the NHS was "checking and rechecking" whether anyone had been left out and final appointments were being arranged for the weekend.

"Anybody who knows of somebody who may have missed out, it is not too late at all," he said.

"We will make sure that those people have an appointment as fast as possible."

Health minister Vaughan Gething said "a leave no-one behind approach" was being taken.

"The next group, those people 65 and over, all health boards are already sending out invites for those people to come forward as well," he said.

"We're not looking to miss a step, we're carrying on with the vaccine we have available."

The top four priority groups include:

  • Older residents in care homes and staff
  • Health and social care workers
  • Everyone over the age of 70
  • Those who are clinically extremely vulnerable to coronavirus

Figures show 88.4% of those aged 80 or older have had a first dose, compared to 86.3% for 75 to 79 year olds and 79.8% of 70 to 74 year olds.

Public Health Wales said a total of 80.3% of care home residents have had a first dose, and 83.5% of care home workers.

British Medical Association chairman Dr David Bailey said Wales was "hopefully on the home straight".

He told BBC Radio Wales: "People are really making an effort to make the thing go smoothly as possible, and it is a credit to the Welsh public, as well as everyone who has actually been delivering the vaccine, because it has gone smoothly and everyone has been trying to do their part."

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.

"Of course, the hard work has only just begun - there are many, many more people to vaccinate yet and a lot of second doses still to give."

'Success story'

Welsh Conservative's Senedd leader Andrew RT Davies called the milestone a "true British and Welsh success story".

He said it showed the UK Government had "ensured Wales has had the vaccines available to protect the most vulnerable in our society and meet this target" and hoped Wales could soon reopen its economy.

However he added there was a still a "long way to go" with 80% of the population yet to be offered the vaccine.

Plaid Cymru's health spokesperson Rhun ap Iorwerth, said it was thanks to NHS staff and volunteers "that Wales has been able to accelerate the vaccination effort to its current levels".

Mr ap Iorwerth added his party would continue to call for "those in all care settings, not just the elderly, to be vaccinated as a matter of priority, and for key workers in schools, the emergency services and public transport to be brought in to the priority system sooner."

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