Drakeford: Astonishing efforts led Wales to reach Covid-19 vaccine target

Adam Hale, PA Wales Correspondent

Wales’ first minister says the country is the first in the UK to offer coronavirus vaccines to everyone in the top four priority groups.

Mark Drakeford paid tribute to the “astonishing efforts” of those behind the vaccination programme in Wales for achieving the target on Friday.

It comes as Public Health Wales said a total of 715,944 first doses of the Covid-19 vaccine had now been given, an increase of 31,847 from the previous day – while 4,010 second doses have also been given, an increase of 215.

On Friday, the Welsh Government said jabs had been offered to all residents and staff in adult care homes, frontline health and social care workers, people aged 70 and over, and clinically vulnerable individuals, and in doing so fulfilled its goal of doing so by mid-February.

Mr Drakeford was later asked at a press briefing why he had, by that point, yet to frame the achievement as Wales reaching the target before the other UK nations.

Mr Drakeford said: “I’m just anxious to avoid the narrative that it is somehow a competition between UK nations.

“I’ve said from the very beginning, the contest is between the injection and the infection. Our race is with coronavirus.

“We are the first nation in the UK to have reached this milestone, other nations will follow in the next couple of days. We’re not in competition with one another. Every part of the UK is working as hard as it can to get to these milestones.”

But he appeared to suggest the target may only actually be reached after Friday, saying: “Because of the astonishing efforts that have been made… we’re able to say today we will have reached that milestone by the end of the day and into the very beginning of the weekend.”

Mr Drakeford responded to claims that some people who were due a vaccine had in fact not yet been contacted for an appointment by saying the NHS was “re-checking” whether those in priority groups had not missed their slots.

He said: “The NHS in every part of Wales is spending this week checking and re-checking whether there are any people who have missed (an appointment).

“There may be a whole range of reasons why that could have happened, and I can’t really speculate on them.

“But anybody who knows of somebody who may have missed out, it is not too late at all, we will make sure that those people have an appointment. They will get it as fast as possible.”

The Welsh Conservatives’ leader in the Senedd, Andrew RT Davies, described Mr Drakeford’s announcement as a “great news day”, but said it was “worrying” that there were people in the top four priority groups complaining that they have yet to receive an appointment for a jab.

He told the PA news agency: “We don’t want to see these public pronouncements start to unravel and as such Labour ministers should provide some swift clarification.”

But a Welsh Government spokesman told PA they were “confident” that “every single person that wants a jab” in the top four priority groups would have one by the end of the weekend.

They said government data indicated they could reach this target by the end of Friday, but there may be “mopping up” over the weekend to arrange appointments for those from the priority groups who had missed or previously refused a slot.

The spokesman said: “There will be appointments going out over the weekend because there will have been mopping up.

“We’re contacting proactively the people who may have changed their minds or may have been ill or may have, for some reason, not been able to take up the appointment, just so we can get them in over the weekend and give them the jab.”

On Wednesday, Wales became the first UK nation to vaccinate more than 20% of its population, and one of the first countries in the world to do so, but Mr Drakeford has confirmed a planned reduction in vaccine supply is expected in the next few weeks.

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