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Wales could receive larger share of vaccines due to older population – Drakeford

Adam Hale, Claire Hayhurst, PA
·4-min read

Wales could receive a larger share of coronavirus vaccines in future because it has an older population, the First Minister has said.

Mark Drakeford told the Welsh Parliament that “actions are being taken” by the UK Government to make sure future deliveries take into account the country’s higher median age.

Wales has the highest proportion of older people in the United Kingdom, ranking highest with the amount of over-65s and over-85s, according to data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

Mr Drakeford previously said the Covid-19 pandemic would have a greater impact on the country because of its “typically older, sicker and poorer” population.

On Tuesday, Plaid Cymru leader Adam Price asked Mr Drakeford during First Minister’s Questions if Wales should receive more than its population-share of vaccines, given its higher median age.

Mr Drakeford told the Senedd: “I discussed that very issue with the first ministers of Scotland, Northern Ireland and with Michael Gove of the Cabinet Office in our meeting on Wednesday of last week.

Weekly rate of new Covid-19 cases in Wales
(PA Graphics)

“We explored it with the most senior civil servant who is responsible for securing and dispersing supplies of vaccines across the United Kingdom.

“The point about our age structure was recognised in that conversation and actions are being taken to make sure that it is taken into account in the supplies of vaccine, which will ramp up here in Wales and across the whole of the United Kingdom.”

Mr Drakeford said the Welsh Government was focused on “making the fastest and most efficient use of every drop of vaccine that comes here in Wales”, and that the country was “on track” to inoculate the first four priority groups by mid-February.

Earlier on Tuesday, Health Minister Vaughan Gething told BBC 5Live that UK vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi had assured him Wales would be given enough supply of vaccines to be able to achieve the target .

He said Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s announcement that the first four groups would be given a jab in England by that time caused “a little bit of a ripple” due to Wales having a higher proportion of older people to get through.

Mr Gething said: “It was a surprise announcement and not only that but in Wales, we have a higher proportion in those first four groups than England do, for example, because bluntly Wales is an older, less well-off and slightly sicker nation.

“That means we’ve got bigger challenges, we’ve got more people in those first four categories.

“I’ve had a direct conversation with Nadhim Zahawi and our officials have had direct conversations as well and the assurance we’ve been given is that there will be enough supply of the vaccines combined for us to still be able to achieve the first four categories of those priority groups by the middle of February.”

The Welsh Government has faced criticism for trailing behind the rest of the UK with its vaccine rollout, with there now being a 30% difference in the number of people given a jab in England compared to Wales.

A total of 161,932 first doses of the Covid-19 vaccine have been given out in Wales, amounting to around 4.8% of the population.

Rhun ap Iorwerth, health spokesman for Plaid Cymru, told the Senedd on Tuesday that the First Minister had tried to “brush off” suggestions that Wales was “lagging behind” other parts of the UK in its vaccination programme.

“But whilst the 6.6% of the population vaccinated in England may not sound much bigger than 4.8% vaccinated in Wales or Scotland, that’s a 30% difference in the number of people vaccinated, and that needs to be addressed right now,” he said.

Mr ap Iorwerth said it was “crucial” that regular updates were provided detailing how much of each of the two vaccines available – Pfizer/BioNTech and Oxford/AstraZeneca – had been given to each UK nation.

“We need to be absolutely sure that we are getting our share of the easier-to-use AstraZeneca vaccine, for example,” he said.

The UK Government has been approached for comment.

On Tuesday, Public Health Wales said there were a further 1,106 cases of coronavirus in Wales, taking the total number of confirmed cases to 182,599.

It reported another eight deaths, taking the total in Wales since the start of the pandemic to 4,302.