There is no doubt that the COVID-19 pandemic has been a public health catastrophe unrivalled by any other in living memory. Yet, like many other times of crisis, it is undoubtedly true that it is has brought out the best in people.
The astonishingly swift development and manufacture of the various vaccines has demonstrated not only mankind’s resilience, but also its inventiveness. Three vaccines have now been approved for use in the United Kingdom and two of them are already being distributed, in an operation of impressive efficiency and ambition.
The Government’s plans to ensure that, by mid-February, inoculation will be provided for all residents and staff in care homes for older adults, all over 70s, frontline health and social care workers and all others who are clinically extremely vulnerable.
That is a total of around 15 million adults, and makes the exercise one of the most demanding since World War II. The Government aims to vaccinate every adult in the country by September.
In Wales, where health provision and delivery are devolved to the Welsh Government (WG), the programme is, unfortunately, proceeding more slowly. When challenged about this, Mark Drakeford, the WG’s First Minister, replied:
“What you can’t do is to try and stand up a system which uses all the vaccine you’ve got in week one and it has nothing to offer for the next four weeks…
“[The Pfizer vaccine] is going last for six weeks and that’s why you haven’t seen it all used in week one.”
With due respect to Mr Drakeford, that is a very strange position to adopt. Vaccination should be rolled out as quickly as possible. If the Pfizer vaccine isn’t available, there is an entirely adequate supply of the AstraZeneca version. Indeed, I recently raised the issue with the Westminster Minister responsible for UK-wide vaccine supply and was assured that the WG will receive enough vaccine in January to inoculate all the priority groups in Wales.
The WG should therefore now press on with the Welsh vaccination programme, so that we all may return to our normal lives as quickly as possible.