Wales has achieved the first major milestone of its Coronavirus vaccine rollout by offering a first vaccine dose to everyone in the first four priority groups, according to the Welsh Government.
So far, more than 684,097 people in Wales have received their first dose of a vaccine against COVID-19. The Welsh Government, in line with the governments in other UK nations, had targetted offering a first vaccine dose to all frontline health and social care workers, all people aged 70 or over and clinically extremely vulnerable individuals by 15 February.
The final appointments for those in the top four priority groups are arranged for this weekend, according to the Welsh Government, though it added that arrangements are in place to ensure nobody is left behind and that people will still be able to get vaccinated if they missed an appointment.
Speaking on Friday about the milestone being achieved, First Minister Mark Drakeford said;
“Vaccination is the number one priority for the Welsh Government and for the NHS in Wales.
“To have achieved this first milestone and offered vaccination to everyone in the first four priority groups – those who are most vulnerable to coronavirus – is a truly phenomenal effort. I want to thank everyone who has been working around the clock to reach this point.
“Of course, the hard work has only just begun – there are many, many more people to vaccinate yet and a lot of second doses still to give.”
The news has also been welcomed in England, where Health Secretary Matt Hancock tweeted, “THANK YOU to all involved in the vaccine roll-out in Wales who have offered a COVID vaccine to the top 4 priority groups. The UK working together to protect all our citizens”.
According to official figures, a slightly higher percentage of the population in Wales has been vaccinated compared to the populations in the UK’s other nations of England, Scotland and Northern Ireland.
After some criticism over a slow start to Wales’ vaccine rollout, the country’s vaccination programme now appears to be moving forward strongly. Coronavirus-related deaths in the country, while high, have also been falling recently, while Wales’ 7-day Coronavirus case rate is at its lowest level since the start of October – continuing hopes that lockdown measures can be eased over the coming months.
Tweeting about the news of the vaccination milestone being reached, Leader of the Welsh Conservatives Andrew RT Davies thanked “everyone involved, especially our incredibly hard-working vaccination teams and armed forces who have gone above and beyond delivering the rollout programme.” He added, “As we hit these targets it’s now for ministers to devise a roadmap out of lockdown. The virus doesn’t follow a predictable pattern but the Welsh Government does need to bring forward a plan for the best-case scenario.”