Wales aims to deliver coronavirus vaccine first doses to everyone in the top four priority groups by mid-February, says Mark Drakeford.
But the First Minister has stressed that ensuring sufficient supplies of vaccines, and the capacity to deliver them, is crucial to achieving it.
Concerns have been raised this week that Wales is lagging behind the rest of the UK on vaccination – but Mr Drakeford, speaking at the Welsh Government’s coronavirus briefing today, refused to entertain the idea that the process as a race.
“We have put more emphasis [in Wales] on vaccinating staff in the health and social care sector,” he said, adding that all the UK nations are following the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) priority list.
Mr Drakeford said he has faced questions about where Wales is in relation to the rest of the UK throughout the pandemic.
This included early on, on the issue of the availability of personal protective equipment (PPE), and later about the Test, Trace and Protect (TTP) system.
But Wales, he said, has never run out of PPE, while its TTP programme is “the most successful in the UK, and one achieved at a fraction of the cost [of that in England]”.
“Vaccination is neither a sprint nor a contest,” he said.
“We will roll out vaccination in Wales as quickly as we are able, in order to make sure the people in priority groups are vaccinated – the same as the rest of the UK.”
On the mid-February goal voiced by the Prime Minister earlier this week, Mr Drakeford said Mr Johnson had gone on to say that this is possible if everything goes to plan in terms of supply of vaccines and delivery capacity.
“We absolutely share that ambition,” said Mr Drakeford.
“It depends on our ramping up the capacity to deliver vaccines but it is, crucially, dependent on the supply of the vaccines coming into Wales.”
Supply of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine is set to go up from 22,000 doses in this first week of its roll-out in Wales, to 25,000 next week, and 80,000 during the week after that, said Mr Drakeford.
But he warned: “If we are to be able to supply vaccines to the four top priority groups, the supply will have to accelerate even further.”
“Significant deliveries” of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine were received on December 23 and 27, and there are currently more doses of that than of the Oxford vaccine in Wales.
He said there is a need to know the number of doses that will be available beyond a three-week period, “because to be able to plan for maximum delivery, you need to have a reliable sense of how much we will have”.
“I am confident we will have confirmation of that volume as it becomes known, and that we will get our fair share of it.”
He added that those responsible for supply are doing everything they can to make sure vaccines are available to Wales, and that the supply process will be fair.
More mass vaccination centres are due to come ‘online’ in Wales in the next week, taking the total to 35. Some 100 GP practices will be vaccinating by next Friday, said Mr Drakeford, and this figure will rise to 250 by the end of the month.
This priority list is as follows:
- residents in a care home for older adults and their carers
- all those 80 years of age and over and frontline health and social care workers
- all those 75 years of age and over
- all those 70 years of age and over and clinically extremely vulnerable individuals
- all those 65 years of age and over
- all individuals aged 16 years to 64 years with underlying health conditions which put them at higher risk of serious disease and mortality
- all those 60 years of age and over
- all those 55 years of age and over
- all those 50 years of age and over
It is estimated that taken together, these groups represent around 99% of preventable mortality from COVID-19.