Wales' autumn Covid booster rollout begins

time:2023-06-03 05:48:50 source:CBS News

Care home residents and staff will be the first in Wales able to get autumn Covid boosters.

Wales' rollout began on Thursday with people offered a vaccine by letter or text message in order of priority by December, the Welsh government said.

Chief Medical Officer Dr Sir Frank Atherton said he feared people would struggle to stay warm as bills increased and urged them to get jabbed.

Dr Atherton called the cost of living crisis "an additional whammy".

Those eligible include those aged 50 plus, people in clinical risk groups and carers aged 16 to 49.

Covid infections are estimated to have fallen for a fifth week in Wales.

Other people eligible to receive the single booster vaccine include front-line health and social care workers and people aged five to 49 in a clinically at-risk group, or household contacts of people with immunosuppression.

The booster campaign follows advice from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), which advises governments in Wales, England, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

Eligible adults aged 18 and over will be offered the Moderna vaccine, with younger people receiving the Pfizer vaccine.

Dr Atherton added: "If we look back over the last two years it's been very clear to us that Covid has differentially affected people with less resources.

"We are now going into a very difficult winter, potentially. People are going to have more respiratory infections.

"There will be more pressure on the NHS and there'll be less money in people's pockets."

Dr Atherton said he feared inequalities would widen in Wales, where people already had "poorer health outcomes" than elsewhere in the UK.

"Anything which leads to increased economic difficulties for people is going to widen those health inequalities gaps and that really is not acceptable," Dr Atherton said.

Keeping elderly people warm was "an absolute priority," he added.

Dr Rowena Christmas, chairwoman of the Royal College of GPs in Wales and a GP in Monmouthshire, said: "I'm feeling Covid fatigue, professionals and patients alike, we're all a bit fed up and wish it would go away but I think people recognise that it hasn't gone away.

"Most people I'm talking to about it when the vaccine is coming are saying 'I'm going to have another one am I?'," she said.

"I don't want to be gloomy, but I am very concerned both about Covid and a tough winter for flu this year, I can't emphasise enough how important it is to come get both of our vaccinations, I think we may have a tough winter."

The booster vaccines, which will be offered at least three months after a previous dose, will be administered in GP surgeries and vaccination centres.

People have been asked to wait for an invitation letter and text message from their local health board rather than contacting their GP.

Meanwhile, 1.5 million eligible people will be offered a free flu vaccine before the end of the year.

More than 7.4m Covid vaccine doses have been given out since December 2020.

Public Health Wales figures show 94% of the over 50s have received at least one dose.

And the first offer of boosters - third doses - saw a take-up of more than 88.2% in the over 50s and to 85% of all those eligible.

But there 81,350 over 50s in Wales who remain unvaccinated.

More than 95% of care home residents received three jabs in the main vaccine programme - and around 84% had a Spring booster.

The Spring booster programme reached 326,282 doses.

However, fewer proportions of people in more deprived parts of Wales have taken up the offer - less than three quarters of the over 75s had taken a Spring booster, compared to 85% of this age group in least deprived areas.

The vaccine programme had wound down ahead of the autumn boosters, with most of the 5,000 doses given out in the last week given to children.

PHW confirmed that 5,000 of the latest Covid boosters had been given out on Thursday alone.

Flu incidence, meanwhile, still remains well below the seasonal threshold for low intensity, based on patients consulting doctors.

"Our winter respiratory vaccination programme will help protect the most vulnerable in our communities from flu and coronavirus," said Health Minister Eluned Morgan.

She also praised "everyone working in the NHS and other organisations who will once again lead efforts to protect the most vulnerable".

"Vaccines have had an enormous impact on the course of the pandemic," she said.

"They have saved countless lives and given us the freedom and confidence to restart our lives."

In England, the autumn booster campaign is due to start next Monday, with care home residents and housebound people the first to get jabs.

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