Welsh Health Minister unsure if over-80s vaccine target has been met

Wales’s Health Minister has said he will not know whether the country’s target to vaccinate 70% of the over-80s and people in care homes has been met for another “day or two”.

Vaughan Gething said a lag in reporting data meant the true figure of vaccinations as of Sunday evening, when the target was meant to have been reached – would not likely be known before Wednesday.

But he said the country was “on track” to have offered jabs to its top four priority groups by the middle of February, despite snowfall over the weekend hampering the rate of Wales’s vaccine rollout.

On Monday, Public Health Wales said 48.1% of those aged over 80 and 66.2% of care home residents had received their first dose of the vaccine, though 74% of care home staff have now received their first jabs.

Mr Gething told the Welsh Government’s press briefing he would confirm whether the 70% target had been reached across the board as soon as he had complete data back from GP surgeries and vaccination centres.

He said: “I hope we’ll be able to do that by Wednesday. If it takes another day, then it takes another day. If we’re able to do it earlier, we’ll do it earlier.

“But whenever that information is available we will of course publish it.”

A total of 270,833 first doses of the vaccine have now been administered – amounting to 8.7% of the population – although only 6,295 were carried out on Sunday due to snow across Wales which saw four vaccine centres close.

But Mr Gething said the country was “on track” to offer vaccines to the top four priority groups by the middle of February due to a “significant increase in pace and scale” of the rollout.

Vaughan Gething
Vaughan Gething

“I think we are on track, and the three to four days of significant gains being made of more than 20,000 people being vaccinated on each day are what we can do on a regular basis if we have the supply,” he said.

“Obviously, the weather yesterday was another intervening factor that prevented us from achieving more, otherwise we would be reporting much more significant figures today.

“But we also have the ability to catch up in our system, largely because of the scale and the spread of what we’re able to do with our colleagues in primary care, currently led by general practice, but pharmacy and others will come on board in larger numbers too.

“And also because of the infrastructure we’ve created with a range of the community-based centres as well as the mass vaccination centres we’ve created as well.”

Mr Gething also said there would likely be no “significant unlocking” of the country’s lockdown restrictions after they are reviewed at the end of this week.

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Wales now had a rate of 231 Covid-19 cases per 100,000 people, down from 270 cases per 100,000 on Friday, but Mr Gething said the rate of positive tests was still above 10% and the NHS remained under significant pressure.

“Even though we’re seeing a decline in admission rates, our critical care units are now operating at still about 140% of their normal capacity,” he said.

“So there’s a range of different things to consider, and I hope people will be patient and still do the right thing and recognise that there’s still a significant risk to all of us… which may mean that our measures have to be extended for some time to come.”

Public Health Wales said on Monday there were a further 872 cases of coronavirus in Wales, taking the total number of confirmed cases to 188,583.

It reported another 23 deaths, taking the total in Wales since the start of the pandemic to 4,553.