Wales has made excellent progress in vaccinating its population against COVID-19 but a clear plan is now needed for the challenges which lie ahead

Wales has made excellent progress in vaccinating its population against COVID-19 but a clear plan is now needed for the challenges which lie ahead
11 June 2021
Vaccination needle

The COVID-19 vaccination programme in Wales has been delivered at significant pace with local, national and UK partners working together to vaccinate a significant proportion of the Welsh population.

Whilst immediate vaccine milestones have been achieved, a longer-term plan is needed that keeps pace with evolving knowledge of the virus and vaccines and considers how to maintain a resilient vaccine workforce and good levels of uptake within the community. 

Vaccination rates in Wales, at the time of reporting, were the highest of the four UK nations, and some of the highest in the world. The Welsh Government’s vaccination strategy has provided a strong motivation to drive the programme, and all milestones have been met to date.

Those involved in the rollout have worked well to set up a range of vaccination models which make best use of the vaccines available, while also providing opportunities to deliver vaccines close to the communities they serve. Overall vaccine uptake is high, but there are concerns about the lower uptake for some ethnic groups and in deprived communities, as well as non-attendance at booked appointments in general.

Vaccine supply is the most significant factor affecting the rollout, and this is dependent on international supply. With limited stock held in Wales, interruptions to expected supply could seriously impact the pace of the rollout. 

So far, workforce staff have been working ‘above and beyond’ to meet the demand for vaccinations. Welsh Government and NHS Wales now need to develop a long-term plan for vaccine rollout. Including sustainable workforce models to respond to supply and demand as other services are restarted. 

There is much to be learnt from the positive way in which the vaccine programme has been rolled out to date. This learning should be looked to apply to wider immunisation strategies and the delivery of other programmes in NHS Wales.

As at the end of May 2021: 

  • 3.3 million vaccinations were given in Wales.
  • 84.4% of the 2.52 million eligible adults, have received a first dose.
  • 66.1% of the 1.68 million in the ‘at risk’ priority group, have received a second dose.
  • Only 0.4% of all vaccines have been considered unsuitable for use.
  • The cost for 2020-21 has been £29.4 million, excluding redeployed staff and the cost of the vaccines.

Wales has made great strides with its COVID-19 vaccination programme. Key milestones for priority groups have been met and the programme is continuing at pace with a significant proportion of the Welsh population now vaccinated. This is a phenomenal achievement and testament to the hard work and commitment of all the individuals and organisations that have been involved in the vaccine roll out to date.

However, the job is far from over. A longer-term plan is needed that moves beyond the existing milestones and considers key issues such as resilience of the vaccine workforce, evolving knowledge of vaccine safety, the need for booster doses, and maintaining good uptake rates - especially in those groups that have shown some hesitancy in coming forward for their vaccinations.

Adrian Crompton, Auditor General

Notes to Editors:

  • This report considers the rollout of the vaccination programme in Wales. In it, we discuss the shape of the programme, how it is performing, the factors that have affected rollout to date, and future challenges and opportunities.
  • Public sector partners across the UK have worked together since the beginning of the pandemic to explore the potential for a COVID-19 vaccination. The programme in Wales was first established in June 2020.
  • The Vaccination Strategy for Wales provides a high-level framework setting out the expectations for prioritisation and delivery of the COVID-19 vaccine. The Welsh Government has adopted the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation: advice on priority groups. The national strategy focusses on ensuring the supply of the vaccine into Wales, developing the infrastructure, and communication about progress.
  • The Auditor General is the independent statutory external auditor of the devolved Welsh public sector. He is responsible for the annual audit of the majority of the public money spent in Wales, including the £21 billion of funds that are voted on annually by the Welsh Parliament. Elements of this funding are passed by the Welsh Government to the NHS in Wales (over £8 billion) and to local government (over £4 billion).
  • The audit independence of the Auditor General is of paramount importance. He is appointed by the Queen, and his audit work is not subject to direction or control by the Welsh Parliament or government. 
  • The Wales Audit Office (WAO) is a corporate body consisting of a nine member statutory Board which employs staff and provides other resources to the Auditor General, who is also the Board’s Chief Executive and Accounting Officer. The Board monitors and advises the Auditor General, regarding the exercise of his functions.
  • Audit Wales is the umbrella name for the Auditor General for Wales and the Wales Audit Office. Audit Wales is a registered trademark, but it is not a legal entity in itself. 
Rollout of the COVID-19 vaccination programme in Wales