Vaughan Gething, Minister for Health and Social Services
We are only a week on from publication of our national COVID-19 Vaccination Strategy and already we are seeing good progress.
Members are aware of the priority groups. These have been agreed by endorsing the advice of the UK’s independent Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI). The same priority list is being followed by all four UK nations and has the support of all four Chief Medical Officers within the UK.
Our first priority – milestone 1 in the Strategy – is to offer a first dose of the vaccine to priority groups 1 – 4. This will include all care home residents and staff; frontline health and social care staff; those 70 years of age and over; and clinically extremely vulnerable individuals. Subject to supply, we have said it is our ambition to do this by mid-February.
In our Strategy, we outlined 3 markers we aimed to deliver on the journey to achieving milestone 1. I am pleased to report that the first of these markers has been achieved – all frontline Welsh Ambulance Service Trust staff have been offered their first dose. Setting us on the right track towards achieving our first milestone.
Good progress is also being made towards having offered the vaccine to all care home residents and staff by the end of this month. We are currently vaccinating almost 1,000 care home residents a day. I will continue to report on progress in this respect.
Absolutely critical to the delivery of our Strategy is the ongoing building of our infrastructure. Our Strategy outlines the blended model in place. This is aimed at providing a mix of sites in order to maximise speed of roll out, ensure safety, meet the needs of the characteristics of the vaccines, be as conveniently located as possible and, importantly, make sure we give equitable access across the country and to all communities.
During the past week we have seen further expansion in our infrastructure, including:
- another 4 mass vaccination centres come on stream, bringing the current total to 28, with a further 17 planned;
- GP practices offering the vaccine increase to over 100, with the expectation now that we will exceed the 250 practices committed to in our Strategy by the end of January;
- doses of vaccine delivered to health boards double, increasing from around 50,000 last week to over 100,000 this week; and
- the introduction of a community pharmacy pilot, with a pharmacy in North Wales becoming the first to begin immunising on-site.
Last week, I further developed our blended model, by adding Community Vaccination Centres (CVCs) to the suite of approaches. CVCs will bring together a range of primary care practitioners, including dentists and optometrists, offering a solution within local communities.
This development builds on the efforts already underway in GMS, and being piloted in community pharmacy, but with the capacity for greater scale than delivery via GP practices alone.
I also want to update Members on plans for publication of information going forward. From Thursday, Public Health Wales will start the process of publishing more granular surveillance data on numbers vaccinated. This will begin with a breakdown of those over 80 and those resident in care homes. Further breakdowns will be added as we move through the cohorts.
In addition to this, Welsh Government statisticians will begin a regular publication of some of the more operational statistics attached to the programme. The first of these publications will be on Tuesday 26 January and weekly thereafter. Data around vaccine supply and wastage will be included as part of this publication. Again, further data will be added as the programme progresses.
From next Tuesday, we will also begin publishing a weekly update on progress against our National Strategy. This will reflect on progress and look ahead to the upcoming milestones.
I want Members, and the public, to have access to the latest information on the vaccine programme and I hope these arrangements go some way to achieving that.