Eluned Morgan, Minister for Health and Social Services
Today, the Joint Committee for Vaccination and Immunisation has published interim advice as we move into Phase 3 of the COVID-19 Vaccination programme. This provides us with a welcome steer for the next stage of deployment and a level of certainty around the much discussed autumn booster vaccination campaign.
The JCVI was asked whether a campaign should be launched to give people a third dose of the COVID-19 vaccine as there is a danger of reduced immunity over time.
Following weeks of discussion and consideration of evidence, the interim advice recommends the autumn booster campaign begins in September 2021, its purpose being to reduce any further incidence of COVID-19 and maximise protection in those who are most vulnerable to serious infection, ahead of the winter months. Early evidence on the administration of COVID-19 and influenza vaccines used in the UK, supports the delivery of both vaccines at the same time, adopting a synergistic approach to support delivery and maximise uptake of both vaccines, but we note that this is still not firm advice from the JCVI.
The categories of people to be prioritised for a third dose are classified into Stages 1 and 2, which largely mirror cohorts 1-9 in Phase 1 of the programme.
Stage 1. The following persons should be offered a third dose COVID-19 booster vaccine and the annual influenza vaccine, as soon as possible from September 2021:
- adults aged 16 years and over who are immunosuppressed;
- those living in residential care homes for older adults;
- all adults aged 70 years or over;
- adults aged 16 years and over who are considered clinically extremely vulnerable;
- frontline health and social care workers.
Stage 2. The following persons should be offered a third dose COVID-19 booster vaccine as soon as practicable after Stage 1, with equal emphasis on deployment of the influenza vaccine where eligible:
- all adults aged 50 years and over
- adults aged 16 – 49 years who are in an influenza or COVID-19 at-risk group. (please refer to the Green Book for details of at-risk groups)
- adult household contacts of immunosuppressed individuals
As most younger adults will only receive their second COVID-19 vaccine dose in late summer, the benefits of booster vaccination in this group will be considered at a later time, by the JCVI, when more information is available.
Apart from the current UK approved COVID-19 vaccines, the UK has placed orders for a range of other COVID-19 vaccines, some of which may become available for use in a booster programme. JCVI will review the use of these vaccines once they have received UK regulatory approval. Vaccines designed specifically against variants of concern will not be available in time for this revaccination phase in the autumn and will be considered by JCVI over the coming months.
It should be noted that this is interim advice and the JCVI will consider additional scientific data as it becomes available over the next few months ahead of developing their final advice.
In line with the other nations of the UK, the Welsh Government welcomes the JCVI advice on Phase 3. It very much aligns with our thinking and our planning assumptions to date. NHS Wales has been planning on the assumption of a September/October booster for cohorts 1-9, with around a 6 month gap following a second dose and health boards have submitted their initial plans on this basis. We will be working with health boards to ensure they are ready to deliver a booster programme from the start of September in line with this advice.
The vaccine continues to be the best way to prevent serious illness and the spread of COVID-19 and every eligible adult is urged to take-up both doses when asked. It is never too late to arrange an appointment, find out who to contact if you have not yet received your offer of vaccination.