Covid: Hancock's vaccine buffer claims 'simply untrue' says first minister

First Minister Mark Drakeford on Newsnight

First Minister Mark Drakeford has accused England’s health secretary of making “simply factually untrue” comments about Wales’ vaccine rollout.

Matt Hancock said Wales had a faster programme because it could draw on England’s supply if needed.

But Mr Drakeford said Wales’ success was based on the management of its own stocks, not any extra supply from the UK government.

Wales currently has one of the best vaccination programmes in the world.

People aged 25 to 29 in England can book to have their first dose of Covid vaccine, while in Wales more than half of 18 to 29-year-olds have had at least one dose of a vaccine.

Mr Hancock told MPs England had a slower rollout due to its “buffer” of supply.

He said UK ministers needed to make sure there was always enough supply for second doses, while Wales could draw on England’s supply if needed

But Mr Drakeford told the BBC’s Newsnight: “It’s simply factually untrue.

“We’ve drawn nothing out of an English buffer, we manage our own stocks and the fact that we have some of the best vaccination rates in the world is just because of the way in which the programme in Wales has been organised and delivered.”

A graphic showing Wales leading the world in first doses of a Covid vaccine

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Mr Drakeford also said he was not prepared to follow England by announcing a date when all freedoms would be restored in Wales.

“I think it’s too optimistic to say that vaccination has broken the link between falling ill and hospitalisation with the new Delta variant,” he said.

“We really don’t know that sufficiently to be confident that the vaccination is going to defend us in exactly that way.

“Wales is very largely free already. A great majority of things that people weren’t able to do before, they’re able to do already.”