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Conservatives attack Mark Drakeford for saying delivering vaccine ‘a marathon, not a sprint’

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THE CONSERVATIVES’ Shadow Health Minister, Andrew RT Davies, fiercely criticised Mark Drakeford after the First Minister’s appearance on Radio Four’s Today programme.

The Conservatives have spent the last week ramping up the rhetoric over the Welsh Government’s alleged failings in Wales’ coronavirus vaccination programme.

On Friday (Jan 15), Mr Drakeford defended the Welsh Government’s track record.

The First Minister said that Wales had been provided with six weeks’ supply of the Pfizer vaccine.

It made more sense, he claimed, to administer the vaccine over six weeks to ensure vaccinations were delivered consistently.

It made no sense, Mr Drakeford continued, for all Pfizer vaccines to be used in a shorter period, leaving Wales without stocks.

Mark Drakeford said delivering the vaccine was ‘a marathon, not a sprint’.

On Monday morning (Jan 18), Mr Drakeford appeared on Radio Four’s flagship Today programme. He was asked about the Welsh Government’s vaccination programme.

The First Minister said: “The most important issue is that we are on track to deliver vaccination to all the top four priority groups by the middle of February.”

Mr Drakeford said Wales would meet that target.

“The thing that limits us at the moment is supply. We are using every bit of vaccine that we are getting. We know that the supply will be ramping up over the coming weeks. We are ready to use all the supply of vaccine that we will get in Wales, and on track to deliver to the top four priority groups.”

He said Wales was using the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine as soon as supplies were received.

However, he explained that the Welsh Government kept back thousands of doses of the Pfizer vaccine because its supply had to last until the beginning of February.

“We won’t get another delivery of that until the end of January, probably the beginning of February,” he said.

“We have to use that over those six weeks. It would be very damaging to try and use all of that in the first week, and then to have all our vaccinators standing around with nothing to do for another month.”

He was asked why Wales’ vaccination programme didn’t deliver the Pfizer vaccine to more people.

He replied: “The system we would have would not be in a position to then go on doing the job we need it to do over the weeks ahead.

“The sensible thing to do is to use the vaccine you have got, over the period you have got it for, so that your system can absorb it, and can go on working. We will use all the vaccine we have, in the time that we have it. As more comes on track, we will use that as well.”

Andrew RT Davies claimed the Welsh vaccination programme was ‘not fit for purpose’ and condemned Mr Drakeford for his ‘outburst of honesty’.

He could scarcely have been surprised by what Mr Drakeford said about the Welsh Government’s strategy. It was published last week and confirmed by the First Minister on Friday.

Had Mr Davies attended regular health briefings, as his predecessor Angela Burns did, his shock and outrage might have been diminished.

Andrew RT Davies continued in his familiar and similarly restrained style by claiming: “His shocking doubling-down on his decision to delay deployment of Pfizer vaccine supplies is dangerous, and makes no clinical sense whatsoever.

“We need to get these vaccinations into people’s arms ASAP.”

The Pfizer vaccine cannot be distributed through GP surgeries because it needs to be stored at minus 70 degrees centigrade.

Once a batch is opened, it must be quickly given. If it is not administered quickly, the vaccine is unusable.

The Welsh Government receives its stocks of vaccine from the UK Government. The UK Government distributes the vaccine based on population and not on need.

A quarter of the stocks of the much-easier to store and transport Oxford vaccine due to come to Wales have been delayed. 26,000 doses of the Oxford vaccine due to be sent to Wales
failed a quality test.

The Oxford vaccine can be stored safely in standard drug fridges and administered by GP surgeries.

Last week, Robert Street GP Surgery in Milford Haven said the delay in the Oxford vaccine’s delivery lay behind delays in its patients getting inoculated.

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Covid-19 vaccination venues and timeline announced for everyone locally over 50

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EVERY person in JCVI priority groups 5 to 9 will be offered a COVID-19 vaccination by 18 April, Hywel Dda University Health Board has confirmed.

While the health board’s vaccination programme has the capacity to offer a vaccine to everyone in groups 5 to 9 by the original target date of 4 April, the delivery plan has had to be adjusted based on confirmed vaccine deliveries.

Carmarthenshire, Ceredigion, and Pembrokeshire residents in priority groups 5 to 9 can expect to receive their vaccine as follows:

  • Group 5, people aged 65 – 69 years – delivered by GP practices between 15 February and 12 March
  • Group 6, people aged 16 years to 64 years with underlying health conditions and unpaid carers – delivered by GP practices between 22 February and 4 April
  • Group 7, people aged 60 – 64 years – delivered by mass vaccination centres starting 8 March
  • Group 8, people aged 55 – 59 years – delivered by mass vaccination centres starting 22 March
  • Group 9, people aged 50 – 54 years – delivered by mass vaccination centres starting 5 April

The health board currently has mass vaccination centres located in Aberystwyth, Cardigan, Haverfordwest, Tenby, Carmarthen and Llanelli.

Group 6 is significantly the largest cohort to be vaccinated to date and we understand that many in this group will be anxious to receive a vaccine. Please do not contact your GP or the health board to ask about your appointment, you will be contacted directly when it is your turn and we thank you for your patience.

People in groups 7, 8 and 9 will receive a letter with an appointment date and time. Please arrive as close to your appointment time as possible. The letter will include a phone number to contact the health board should you need to rearrange or cancel your appointment but please make every effort to keep your allocated appointment time.

Steve Moore, Chief Executive of Hywel Dda UHB, said: “While  our programme has had to slow  due to supplies, we want to reassure everyone in groups 5 to 9 that our amazing teams of vaccinators and GP practices have the capability and flexibility to deliver our vaccine supplies as they arrive into the region.

“Vaccine supplies will start to increase again from mid-March, and we are confident that everyone living in our three counties in the top 9 priority groups will be offered a vaccine by mid-April.

“In Hywel Dda we have an older population compared to some other health boards and so over 50% of our adult population will have been offered a vaccine by milestone 2.

“To be able to say that as we approach the anniversary of the first national lockdown is nothing short of extraordinary.

“And again, I must say thank you to everyone living in our three counties who continue to come forward in substantial numbers for the vaccine. Uptake remains remarkably high and we hope to see this continue through groups 5 to 9 and into group 10.”

People are asked, wherever possible, to use their own private transport to attend an appointment. Lifts can be accepted from someone in their household or support bubble, but not from anyone else due to the risk of transmission of the virus.

The health board has put in place transport support for anyone who may have difficulty attending their vaccination appointment. If you have no other means of travel, please contact the health board on 0300 303 8322 and we will be happy to assist.

Everyone in priority groups 1 to 4 should have received an offer of a vaccination. If you have not been contacted, or have changed your mind, please contact your GP at the earliest opportunity. No one will be left behind.

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Nolton Haven: Man hospitalised after getting into difficulties in sea

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A MAN was taken to hospital after getting into difficulties in the sea off Nolton Haven on Friday.

Emergency services were alerted at 2.40pm on February 26 by a 999 call to the control centre.

The Little Haven RNLI lifeboat, Broad Haven Coastguard, an ambulance crew and a Coastguard rescue helicopter assisted police in the operation.

The male casualty was stabilised on the beach and shortly before 4.30pm, was then transported to Withybush Hospital.

A police spokesman told The Herald: “We were called to a male who had got into difficulties in the water at Nolton Haven shortly before 3pm.

“He was taken to hospital by ambulance.”

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Cyclist killed on A40 was serving police officer, force confirms

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A CYCLIST who died after a crash with a van on the A40 in Carmarthenshire was a serving police officer with Dyfed-Powys Police, the force has confirmed in a statement to Herald.Wales.

The driver of the van involved in the crash, which happened on Thursday (Feb 25) has been arrested on suspicion of causing death by dangerous driving, it was confirmed on Friday (Feb 26).

Police are investigating the fatal collision, which caused the road to be closed for 12 hours, and are asking for any witnesses to come forward by calling 101.

37-year-old Lynwen Thomas, who is a former student at Ysgol Bro Myrddin, Croes-y-Ceiliog, Carmarthen, was a sergeant and a very well-respected member of Dyfed-Powys Police.

A spokesperson for the police said in a statement: “Our thoughts are with her family, friends and colleagues, who have all been offered specialist support. We ask that family members are given the privacy they need at this difficult time.”

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