First people in Wales to be given coronavirus vaccine on Tuesday
Frontline NHS and social care staff in Wales will receive the country’s first coronavirus vaccine from Tuesday, the First Minister has said.
Mark Drakeford said he hoped supplies of the Pfizer vaccine marked a “turning point in the pandemic” that would put Wales “on what is going to be a long path back to normality”.
The announcement came on the same day Wales’ new restrictions on its hospitality sector came into force, which will see pubs, bars and restaurants forced to offer takeaway only after 6pm and to stop selling alcohol entirely.
Welsh Labour leader Mr Drakeford told Friday’s Welsh Government press briefing that the first vaccine supplies would arrive “in the next couple of days” and that trained staff were ready to administer it.
“I’m pleased to be able to say this afternoon that we are planning to begin vaccinating people from Tuesday next week,” he said.
“We hope of course this marks a turning point in the pandemic, and that it will put us on to what is going to be a long path back to normality.”
Vaccines will be offered to those judged to be “at highest risk” including frontline health and social care workers.
Other people judged in the highest category of need are people over the age of 80 and care home residents, although health minister Vaughan Gething has previously said the vaccine would not be available within the first few weeks to the latter group due to logistical problems with storing it at low temperatures.
Mr Drakeford told the press briefing that, while the vaccine “offers hope for the future”, the picture in Wales with regards to transmissions “remains very serious”.
Almost two thirds of all local authority areas in Wales have a seven-day incidence rate of at least 150 cases per 100,000 people, he said, with rates continuing to rise in all but two areas.
Neath Port Talbot and Blaenau Gwent had rates that exceeded 400 cases per 100,000 people.
“Every day we are seeing more and more people admitted to hospital with coronavirus symptoms,” Mr Drakeford said.
“In the last week we have seen a record number of coronavirus-related patients and these numbers are increasing.
“Many of these patients will be in hospital for three weeks or longer.
“The epidemic is putting our health service under a significant and sustained pressure.”
On Thursday, the Welsh Ambulance Service declared a “critical indecent” due to overwhelming demand in South East Wales, which Mr Drakeford said was the “first real visible sign” of the impact of the virus on day-to-day care.
“The problem was not so much ambulances or crews being unavailable, but that hospitals in some parts of Wales are now so full of patients with coronavirus that it simply wasn’t possible for them to attend to other people’s emergencies in the way that we would want and expect,” he said.
“Fortunately, that position has improved today but yesterday the impact of coronavirus in our health service was absolutely real, and making a difference in the care we were able to offer to people suffering from strokes, or heart attacks, or having broken limbs.”
On Wales’ new restrictions on hospitality businesses, Mr Drakeford said he was unable to say how many cases of the virus could be tracked back to pubs and restaurants, but that scientific advice was “clear” that similar restrictions had been effective in England and Scotland.
He also denied that failing to publish evidence showing that banning alcohol and restricting opening times helped lower transmissions meant the measures were merely a “hit in hope” rather than in expectation of doing so.
“It is not hit in hope at all.
“It is drawing directly on the experience elsewhere, the advice from the most senior scientists we have, our own chief medical officer, all of whom say this is the right thing to do.”