Vaughan Gething, Minister for Health and Social Services
It has been another busy week in our COVID-19 Vaccination Programme. I am proud to report that 70% of our adult population have had a first dose and one in four adults in Wales have completed the two-dose course. Data published today shows that our incredible vaccination teams have now administered 1,785,347 first doses and 701,099 second doses, so have administered a total of 2,486,446 vaccinations.
We are making good progress vaccinating younger adults – nearly 70% of people in their 40s and more than 35% of people in their 30s have had a first dose. The enhanced vaccination report from Public Health Wales also shows that coverage of vaccination has increased in all reported socioeconomic and ethnic groups since February. Inequality gaps in coverage of at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine between ethnic and socioeconomic groups in older adults in Wales have narrowed since March. There is still work to do to close these gaps further and, as set out in our vaccination strategy updates, this will remain a key focus for the vaccination programme.
I also wanted to provide further updates on recent JCVI advice on pregnant and breastfeeding women and also on people who are immunosuppressed.
It is important that I reiterate that the JCVI have advised that women who are pregnant should be offered vaccination at the same time as non-pregnant women, based on their age and clinical risk group. There is now extensive post-marketing experience of the use of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines in the USA with no safety signals so far. These vaccines are therefore the preferred vaccines to offer to pregnant women. Clinicians should discuss the risks and benefits of vaccination with the woman, who should be told about the limited but emerging evidence regarding safety for vaccination in pregnancy. You don’t have to make the decision alone, and we would encourage you talk it through with your doctor or midwife. Pregnant women who commenced vaccination with AstraZeneca, are advised to complete their vaccination course with the same vaccine.
The Green Book chapter 14a also confirms that women who are planning pregnancy, are in the immediate postpartum (having given birth), or are breastfeeding can be vaccinated with any vaccine, in accordance with their age and clinical risk group.
Adults who are immunosuppressed have a weaker immune system to fight infections naturally and are more likely to have poorer outcomes following COVID-19 infection. There is growing evidence that the COVID-19 vaccines may reduce the chance of someone who has been vaccinated passing the virus on. Vaccinating household contacts will help limit the spread of the virus to these vulnerable adults.
Consequently the JCVI has advised that people over 16 who live with individuals with severely weakened immune systems should be offered COVID-19 vaccination as a priority. The Welsh Government, like the other UK nations, has accepted this advice there is now a form online for individuals who are household contacts of someone who is immunosuppressed to complete.
People’s safety will always come first, we continue to follow the advice from the JCVI. It is important for everyone to take up their offer of vaccination; the NHS in Wales is working hard to make available the right vaccine at the right time for all individuals. It is never too late for someone in the first priority groups to come forward for their vaccination, there are always plans in place to ensure that no one is left behind. Anyone in groups 1-9 that has not yet heard about their appointment should contact their health board. Full details are available on the Welsh Government’s website.