Today is a momentous day in the story of the COVID-19 pandemic. Following the approval last week by the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency of the Pfizer BioNTech vaccine for use in the UK, NHS Wales has moved swiftly from the planning to mobilisation phase and will begin vaccinating today.
The months of meticulous planning for vaccine deployment across the NHS in Wales, while continuing to manage unprecedented pressure on services, today comes to fruition. I am incredibly proud of what the NHS in Wales has achieved during the course of the pandemic. The unwavering commitment of health and social care staff across the country is truly inspiring and my deepest thanks goes to each and every one of them.
As the vaccine starts to be administered, and in line with the recommendations of the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation, prioritisation will be given to those aged 80 and over, care home staff and residents as soon as possible and those working on the frontline within health and social care.
Of course, today marks just the very beginning of what we all hope will be the end of this pandemic. But we must be under no illusion that, while there is now light at the end of the tunnel, the tunnel is a long one. We will not see the impact of the vaccine for some months and the pressure on the NHS will continue during this winter. It is still essential that we all continue to play our part and follow the rules to protect each other.
Today, as we near the end of a very challenging year, we can be optimistic – and we should be – but we must also be cautious; we have a long and difficult journey ahead still. I will, as always, continue to keep Members updated as the vaccine deployment programme progresses.