Covid vaccine: 'Patience and perspective' needed in Wales

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The Oxford vaccine roll-out started in Wales earlier this weekImage source, Getty Images
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Wales' former Chief Medical Officer Dame Deirdre Hine thinks the vaccine targets are achievable

People waiting for the Covid vaccine need to show "patience" and "perspective", Wales' former chief medical officer has said.

Dame Deirdre Hine said Wales had made a "very good start" on delivering jabs.

Aged 83, she needs the vaccine herself and accepted there was "understandable anxiety" for those still waiting, but said: "I think we should all quieten down and wait."

Stuart Wilson said he was "appalled" his 84-year-old housebound mother had been told she may have to wait up to two months to have her coronavirus vaccine if she cannot get to her GP surgery.

Dame Deirdre is regarded as one of Wales' leading medical experts, having not only held the chief medical officer post, but being the woman who established the Welsh breast cancer screening programme.

A past president of the British Medical Association and Royal Society of Medicine, she also oversaw the official inquiry into the 2009 swine flu pandemic in the UK.

Dame Deirdre Hine, Wales' former Chief Medical Officer
BBC
It's not surprising that people are worried and concerned... but I would say to them, let's keep it in proportion, let's look at the perspective
Dame Deirdre Hine
Wales' former chief medical officer

She told BBC Wales the response from governments had moved forward since then.

"I can detect some lessons that have been learned from the previous pandemic, the one I reported on. Because, although we had a vaccine then, the arrangements for delivering it were very much less clear and much more protracted than it has been this time.

"The arrangements for the GPs to deliver, and now pharmacists to deliver, all of that is a tremendous improvement on what I saw at the last pandemic."

In September, Dame Deirdre accused successive governments across the UK of taking "their eye off the ball" and failing to prepare for a global pandemic.

She also correctly warned of the "real danger" of a damaging second wave of Covid and has remained critical of failures to get adequate testing and tracing capability up and running in the early stages of the pandemic.

She added: "I would say the testing and tracing is another matter, and I think there has been justifiable criticism of that."

Dame Deirdre, who lives in Cardiff, said she was still "waiting impatiently" for her vaccine appointment, but called on people to see the bigger picture.

"Let's get it in perspective. This is a massive logistical exercise, together with a narrow pipeline of supply of the vaccine, and so I'm not a bit surprised that it's taking as long as it is to get round to everybody. But I have every confidence that they will."

The Welsh Government, along with other UK nations, has committed to vaccinating all four of the highest priority groups by the middle of February, including the over-80s.

Latest figures on vaccination in Wales show that, as of 20 January, there had been 175,816 people to get a first dose of either the Pfizer-BioNTech or Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine.

This accounts for 5.6% of the population in Wales, while 7.1% have received a vaccination in England, 7.3% in Northern Ireland, and 5.7% in Scotland.

Health Minister Vaughan Gething has denied Covid-19 vaccines were being held back, following comments from First Minister Mark Drakeford that the supply had to last until February to prevent "vaccinators standing around with nothing to do".

Mr Drakeford later said on social media that "nobody is holding back vaccines" and Mr Gething added: "We're rolling out the vaccination programme as quickly as possible."

Dame Deirdre said she believed the targets were achievable, but people's anxieties were "understandable".

She added: "Some recent research by Imperial College shows that people in my age group, people over 70, are the people most worried about this pandemic and about their own safety.

"So it's not surprising that people are worried and concerned, dismayed, when they don't get the letter and then that turns to anger. But I would say to them, let's keep it in proportion, let's look at the perspective.

"If you'd asked me last May and June whether we would even have a vaccine, I would have been highly sceptical.

"Then once you've got the vaccine, there is the whole logistical exercise of the publicity, letting people know what's likely to happen, getting the personnel assembled to do that, getting the premises.

"And it's not easy, it's not easy to do all that very, very quickly."