Eluned Morgan, Minister for Health and Social Services
This week has been another week of real progress for our vaccination programme. Over 3 million doses of the vaccine have been delivered in Wales and, over the weekend, another important milestone was reached with over a million people have had their second dose and are fully protected.
This is a remarkable achievement in such a short space of time. I am extremely grateful to all our NHS colleagues and all the volunteers across Wales whose continuous hard work and dedication is making our excellent progress through our COVID-19 vaccination programme possible.
We are continuing to carefully monitor the so-called India variant (VOC-21APR-02) in Wales. I have asked my officials to continue to work closely with health board Executive Directors of Public Health and local Incident teams to tailor evidence-based health protection responses to the India 2 clusters. There is local discretion and flexibility to interpret the guidance, based on what would work operationally locally or hyper-locally, which includes expediting second doses, in certain areas, should this be a clinical priority, and where supply allows. The Chief Medical Officer has written to NHS Wales to provide clarification.
Our Test Trace Protect teams continue to ensure we trace and monitor contacts of variant cases and are also further developing local plans if targeted or surge testing is required. The numbers in Wales of the so-called Indian variant are still low and we have high numbers of people already vaccinated, including high numbers of second doses in our most vulnerable groups.
The emergence of the so-called India variant (VOC-21APR-02) is a reminder that COVID-19 has not gone away and that it’s really important to take up the offer of vaccination when it is your turn, including getting the second dose, when offered, to maximise protection.
No one left behind is a key principle to our vaccination programme. Whilst the uptake of the COVID-19 vaccine in Wales has been extremely high, there are still groups of the population who, despite receiving more than one offer, remain unvaccinated.
Public Health Wales have published their fourth report on equality in coverage of the COVID-19 vaccination programme. The report shows that coverage of vaccination has increased in all reported socioeconomic and ethnic groups, which is positive news. However, the largest inequality in coverage was seen between ethnic groups in adults aged 50 to 59 years. Inequalities were also seen between adults living in the most and least deprived areas of Wales.
This is a key focus for the programme. Although inequality gaps in coverage of at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine between ethnic and socioeconomic groups in older adults in Wales have narrowed since March, we know there is more work to do to make sure no one is left behind. We are taking steps to understand who remains unvaccinated, and why they are not taking up their offer in order to reach those individuals and groups.
I would like to remind everyone that the vaccine programme is open and available for all eligible adults in Wales, irrespective of background, status, circumstance or heritage. The NHS will always be ready for you if you didn’t take up your first offer of COVID-19 vaccination for whatever reason but have changed your mind, it is never too late to arrange an appointment. I strongly urge you to get your first and second dose of COVID-19 vaccine to protect yourself and keep Wales safe.
Tomorrow the next of our regular updates will be published. Later this week I will also be publishing a further update to our Vaccination Strategy, to reflect on the progress made so far and to keep you up to date on of the road ahead. Vaccination is making a real difference to the course of this pandemic. Every dose delivered is a small victory against this awful virus.