An unpaid carer in Wales has become the first Briton to receive a dose of the Moderna vaccine in the UK.
Elle Taylor from Ammanford got the jab on Wednesday morning at the West Wales General Hospital in Carmathen. The 24-year-old works at a further education college in Llanelli as well as caring for her 82-year-old grandmother.
“I’m very excited and very happy,” she said after receiving her vaccine.“I’m an unpaid carer for my grandmother so it is very important to me that I get it, so I can care for her properly and safely.
“My grandmother has had her first dose and she is going for her second dose on Saturday.”
It is a significant milestone in what has been a very successful vaccine rollout in Wales, coming days after the Welsh government announced that it had hit a key target in its vaccination drive.
Everyone over 50 – and all at-risk adults with underlying health conditions – have now been offered a first dose of a coronavirus vaccine in Wales, opening the door for those aged between 40 and 49 to receive their jabs in the coming weeks.
All four UK governments had pledged to vaccinate all over-50s by mid-April and, while England, Scotland and Northern Ireland are also on pace to hit that target, the smoothness and speed of the Welsh rollout has been impressive.
Procurement of different vaccines – by the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation – and approval of the jabs – by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency – is done on a UK-wide basis.
How many jabs each nation received is decided centrally by a population-based ratio, nonetheless delivery of the vaccine itself is more devolved. The delivery model for Wales was, therefore, designed by NHS Wales – which is Labour-run, and the frequent target of criticism by the Conservative party.
In the run-up to the 2019 election, Labour’s management of the NHS in Wales was subjected to a string of attacks by Tory politicians and their media outriders.
One article in the Telegraph warned voters that they had “48 hours to save the NHS from a party that has presided over rocketing A&E queues, that has seen heart bypass surgery waiting times double under its watch, and whose mismanagement has seen hospital after hospital shoved into special measures.”
It continued: “That’s right, we only have 48 hours to save the NHS from the dead hand of Labour — whose oversight of our precious healthcare rationing system leaves Welsh men, women and children with all too often the worst service in the United Kingdom.”
This is not to say that the Labour-run NHS in Wales is beyond reproach – far from it. As several commentators have pointed out, Labour’s record in Wales has been patchy at best – and Jeremy Corbyn made just one appearance there before the 2019 election.
Nonetheless the vaccine rollout has provided a welcome tonic to years of criticism. As the rollout of the Moderna jab got underway in Carmarthen this morning, Vaughan Gething – the health minister – hailed it as “another key milestone in our fight against the Covid-19 pandemic”.
Whether it is a significant enough milestone to prompt a rethink in the popular perception of the efficiency of a Labour-run NHS remains to be seen.