Covid: Wales first in UK to reach February vaccine target

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Man being vaccinated

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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”.

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

The UK Government’s Welsh Secretary Simon Hart said Wales’ milestone was a 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 684,097 doses have been given out.

Vaccination centre

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Figures from Thursday show 21.7% of the population have been vaccinated, compared to 20.3% in England, 19.2% in Scotland and 18.7% in Northern Ireland.

However, the target for appointments offered, which on Wednesday night stood at 740,350, has not yet been hit.

The Welsh Government said it believed it would have reached the remaining 56,253 before the weekend.

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.

The Welsh Government said final appointments were being arranged for the weekend.

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 87.6% of those aged 80 or older have had a first dose, compared to 84.2% for 75-79 year olds and 73.5% of 70-74 year olds.

Public Health Wales said a total of 79.1% of care home residents have had a first dose, and 83% of care home workers.

Vaccination map

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.”

‘British and Welsh success story’

Mr Hart said the achievement was “fantastic news”.

“The UK Government, with support from Welsh Government, NHS and military teams are working diligently to make sure the vaccination programme runs as smoothly and efficiently as possible. This milestone is testament to this continued effort and I send my thanks to everyone involved,” he said.

Welsh Conservatives Senedd leader Andrew RT Davies MS agreed saying it was a “true British and Welsh success story”.

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”, he added.

Plaid Cymru 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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BBC News – UK

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