Wales’ rollout of its first coronavirus vaccine programme has begun with NHS and social care staff first in line for the jab.
Hundreds of health and social workers attended seven vaccine centres across Wales on Tuesday for the first wave of the rollout which will see nearly 20,000 people immunised.
The Welsh Government said Wales was the first country in the world to receive supplies of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine when it arrived on Monday evening.
At a vaccine centre in Cardiff, one of the first people in Wales to receive the Covid-19 jab was Dr Nolan Arulraj, an acute physician at the University Hospital Llandough, who said it would give him and his colleagues confidence to treat patients in the coming months.
“This may be the start of something very good. The sooner a lot of people get it in the community then the better for everyone in general.”
Dr Arulraj joked that the speed of the UK rollout compared to countries in the European Union meant Brexit was “not all that bad”.
“I think if the vaccine is a success in the UK it means that the UK goes back to normality much quicker before Europe, which I think is struggling to get it approved,” he said.
“So, actually, Brexit is not all that bad. It gives you a degree of independence to actually get things done much quicker and if it wasn’t for that we would have to have agreements from Europe.”
Tracy Meredith, the health board’s head of operations for mass immunisation, said planning was now under way for giving vaccines to another demographic in Wales’ priority group, the over-80s.
Fiona Kinghorn, the health board’s executive director of Public Health, said the start of the vaccination programme was a “historic moment” and would raise the spirits of the country.
She told PA: “What the vaccine does is give people hope that we have a way out of this.”
Ms Kinghorn said her health board was continuing to see rising numbers of new Covid-19 cases, some 200 to 300 every day.
“And so we do ask the public to do their bit and do everything they can to help protect each other this Christmas and to help our services.”
In Swansea, consultant cardiologist Geraint Jenkins was among the first 10 staff to be vaccinated at Swansea Bay University Health Board’s vaccination centre at Morriston Hospital.
He said: “It’s quite a privilege really. We have been waiting so long for this and it’s poignant that the same day as we are having the vaccine there’s a big outbreak of Covid and very high levels in Swansea and Neath.”
The vaccine comes as eight local authority areas in Wales reported Covid-19 rates of more than 400 cases per 100,000 people, with cases rising in 19 out of 22 areas.
Wales also now has its highest ever number of coronavirus-related patients in hospitals – 1,800 in total.
It also has the worst infection rate in the UK, just four weeks after the end of the country’s 17-day firebreak lockdown.