Weather ‘key factor’ in Wales missing over-80s vaccination target: Gething

Snow and icy conditions were a “key factor” for Wales failing to meet its target of vaccinating 70% of over-80s by the end of the weekend, health minister Vaughan Gething has said.

Mr Gething told the Welsh Parliament that at least five mass vaccination centres in the country were affected by the weather, while a number of GP clinics did not go ahead.

A significant number of people did not attend for vaccinations due to the “treacherous” conditions in large parts of Wales over the past two days, he said.

Such appointments are being rescheduled for this week, Mr Gething told the Senedd.

Figures released on Tuesday show 96,830 of those aged over 80 in Wales have received their first dose of the Covid-19 vaccine, accounting for 52.8% of that age group.

The data, from Public Health Wales, says 67.6% of care home residents and 74.6% of care home staff have received their first dose of the vaccine.

Mr Gething had previously set a target of vaccinating 70% of each of the three groups by January 25.

“The snow was an obvious factor on Sunday and Monday and it had a material impact,” Mr Gething told the Senedd.

“The figures that we are publishing, the 52.8% that Public Health Wales refers to, at least that many have received the vaccine.

“We know that there’s a lag before we get data that is brought up to date but it is clear that we’re not going to get to the 70% when that is all reconciled for the end of Sunday.

“That is being honest and upfront with people and I think most members of the public will not be at all surprised that the snowfall we saw in large parts of the country had an impact.”

But Rhun ap Iorwerth, shadow health minister for Plaid Cymru, told Mr Gething that he did not believe “blaming snow over the weekend holds water”.

“Of course, snow did cause problems in certain areas, but the problem was that you were still on 24% of over-80s in the middle of last week, and it was too high a mountain to climb,” Mr ap Iorwerth said.

Data published on Tuesday showed 289,556 people in Wales have received their first dose of the Covid-19 vaccination, accounting for just over 9% of the population.

Mr Gething told the Senedd that at least 329 GP surgeries across Wales were now deploying the vaccine.

He said the Welsh Government was making “strong progress” towards its aim of offering the vaccine to all care home residents and staff by the end of January.

Health minister Vaughan Gething (Isabel Infantes/PA)
Health minister Vaughan Gething (Isabel Infantes/PA)

Addressing the target of vaccinating 70% of the over-80s and care home residents by the weekend, Mr Gething said: “We don’t think we quite got there.

“The centre closures and rescheduling of appointments due to the weather were a key factor in this.

“What is clear and undoubted is the heroic effort under way, with the numbers of people being vaccinated increasing every day last week as the week progressed.

“I want to thank each and every person involved for their commitment to this ongoing national mission.”

"Please please go and have this vaccine. Don't turn your back on it."

👇 Here's Jean, who was very happy to receive her coronavirus vaccine last Thursday.

Lots of people are working hard to get the vaccine to those who need it most. The NHS will be in touch when it's your turn.

— Welsh Government #StayHome🏠 (@WelshGovernment) January 26, 2021

Earlier, First Minister Mark Drakeford said it was still the “ambition” of the Welsh Government to offer vaccinations to everyone in the top four priority groups by mid-February.

He told the Senedd that the target of vaccinating 70% of the over-80s by the end of the weekend was affected by “adverse weather”.

“We know that a large number of people aged over 80 did not feel that it was safe for them to leave their homes in the snow and yesterday morning in very cold and icy conditions and weren’t able to attend appointments at GP clinics or in mass vaccination centres,” Mr Drakeford said.

“All of those people will have been offered another opportunity for vaccination by the end of Wednesday of this week, so we will very rapidly make up for that number.”

Mr Drakeford said on Tuesday of last week, 162,000 people had been vaccinated in Wales. This Tuesday, figures show 290,000 people have received their first dose of the vaccine.

“That is the fastest rate of increase of any part of the United Kingdom,” Mr Drakeford said.

But Andrew RT Davies, leader of the Welsh Conservatives, told the First Minister: “What we’re seeing constantly is targets being missed by your Government.

“People of Wales want to know the speed and the rollout is catching up with other parts of the United Kingdom, and when you set yourself a target, you hit the target.

“It’d be far better if when you make a commitment, you stick to it.”

(PA Graphics)
(PA Graphics)

Wales now has an incidence rate of 219 cases of Covid-19 per 100,000 people, down from 270 cases per 100,000 on Friday.

Figures published by Public Health Wales show the latest seven-day test positivity rate across Wales is 14.9%.

On Tuesday, the agency said there were a further 570 cases of coronavirus in Wales, taking the total number of confirmed cases to 189,152.

It reported another eight deaths, taking the total in Wales since the start of the pandemic to 4,561.