Health Minister admits Wales “slightly behind” with vaccination plan

THE Welsh Government’s health minister has said Wales’ coronavirus vaccination programme will not fall further behind other parts of the UK in the coming weeks.

Speaking to BBC Radio Wales on Sunday morning, Vaughan Gething said there was “no getting away from” figures showing Wales was “slightly behind” on delivering its population share of the Covid-19 jab.

“I fully expect that over the next week, two- and three weeks we’ll see a significant step up in the delivery of the vaccine,” Mr Gething said, adding that more than 100 GP surgeries would have received a supply of the jab by the end of next week.

The BBC quoted recent figures as showing Wales had vaccinated 1.6 per cent of its population – compared with 1.9 per cent in England and higher rates still in Scotland and Northern Ireland.

Mr Gething said “the race we have isn’t necessarily with the other UK nations; it is a race against the vaccine”, adding: “I think that as we get through the next few weeks you’ll see that Wales is in an entirely comparable position with other UK nations.”

The health minister told Radio Wales the Welsh Government would begin publishing “useful and accurate” daily vaccination statistics from Monday, followed by the announcement of a more detailed plan for Wales’ expanded vaccination rollout.

He said he hoped the two schemes would “give people not just a sense of confidence, but a sense of the increase and the pace and scale of this huge challenge”.

Optimism surrounding the approval and distribution of several Covid-19 vaccines comes as hospitals in Wales and across the UK remain under extreme pressure, prompting a recent return to the full lockdown rules first seen last spring

Mr Gething said more people getting vaccinated would not mean an immediate relaxation of those restrictions.

“Right now it’s really important that everyone recognises the ‘stay at home’ period,” he told Radio Wales, describing the “very real pressure” on front-line health services.

“We have today nearly as many Covid patients in our critical care units as our normal capacity for critical care,” he added.

Asked about the wider effects of the pandemic, such as disruption to education and children’s lives, the minister said the decision to close Wales’ schools was “unavoidable” but had been taken “with a real heavy heart”.

“We know there’s real damage that isn’t evenly shared,” he told Radio Wales. “We know the least advantaged families will suffer the biggest challenge, so whatever happens [after the Welsh Parliament election in May], we know there’s going to be a need to catch up.”

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