Eluned Morgan MS, Minister for Health and Social Services
The Chief Medical Officer for Wales has indicated that following a comprehensive review of evidence with regard to susceptibility to Covid-19 infection, children and young people are no longer considered clinically extremely vulnerable with respect to that, and are to be removed from the shielding patient list.
The decision to remove children and young people from the shielding patient list has come as a result of studies commissioned by the UK Government into the effects of Covid-19 infection on children and young people. These studies found that children and young people, including those originally considered to be clinically extremely vulnerable to the disease, are at very low risk of becoming seriously unwell or dying from infection with the virus. This information was subsequently discussed at a UK expert medical panel who recommended that all children and young people should no longer be considered clinically extremely vulnerable to Covid-19 and therefore be removed from the shielding patient list. This recommendation was agreed by the Chief Medical Officers of the UK.
We have been aware for some time that the risk to children of serious illness or death is extremely low. We have been working with our health boards since last summer to implement the advice of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, who suggested that very few children needed to shield. This new advice will mean the removal of the approx. 2,700 children and young people who remain on the list in Wales.
This change is separate to the advice of the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation(JCVI) and so the vaccination of some children aged 12-15 with specific health conditions or who live with individuals (adults or children) who are immunosuppressed, will continue, in line with advice that immunisation may be of benefit to certain groups.
In his letter issued in July, the Chief Medical Officer for Wales indicated that the shielding patient list was being reviewed and committed to write to those who were affected by any change. He will therefore shortly be writing to all children and young people on the list to explain that, as a group, they are no longer considered clinically extremely vulnerable to the effects of infection with Covid-19. Whilst it is good news that children and young people are no longer considered clinically extremely vulnerable to the virus, the letter will continue to advise that this group, similarly to everyone in Wales, should continue to do all they can to minimise the risk of contracting the virus. This is because there are other impacts of Covid-19 that we are still learning about, including long Covid.
Whilst all children and young people are being removed from the shielding patient list, there remains a small number in this group who may have been advised by their own specialists to isolate or reduce their social contact because of their medical condition or treatment. Where this is the case, children and young people are advised to continue to follow the advice of their own clinician.
This statement is being issued during recess in order to keep members informed. Should members wish me to make a further statement or to answer questions on this when the Senedd returns I would be happy to do that.