The Welsh government is “ready to roll” with a third booster dose of a COVID-19 vaccine and is just waiting for UK government advisors to give the green light, health minister Eluned Morgan has said.
New research suggests protection from two doses of the Pfizer or AstraZeneca vaccines begins to wane within six months.
A study by UK-based Zoe Covid Study app found that initial protection against infection a month after the second dose of the Pfizer vaccine was 88%, while after five to six months this fell to 74%.
For the AstraZeneca vaccine, there was around 77% protection a month after the second dose, falling to 67% after four to five months.
Speaking to BBC Radio Wales this morning, Ms Morgan said the research results “didn’t really come as a surprise to us, this was something that we had expected.”
Ms Morgan said the Welsh government was waiting for the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) to advise on who and when people should get a third vaccine dose.
She said “we are expecting to roll out a booster vaccination program in September.”
“We’re all ready to run here in Wales, we have all our measures in place, we just simply need them to press a button, and we’ll be off.”
Ms Morgan said: “We will be giving that additional booster vaccination to those people who received the vaccination earliest in our previous program.”
The health minister said the Welsh government is expecting recommendations on the booster program from the JCVI “around about the 6th September.”
“It may take a few days to process beyond that but we are absolutely ready to roll on that one.”
According to a report by the Financial Times, the JCVI will reccomend third doses of vaccines from September for people with weakened immune systems as part of a “targeted” booster plan.
The programme will be expanded at a later date to the over-70s, “according to people close to the decision-making process.”
A person close to the JCVI told the Financial Times that “somewhere between nobody [and] small numbers” will be getting booster doses in September.
“It will probably be a targeted booster programme, which includes specific vulnerable people,” they added. “It’s definitely not going to be a blanket thing in September, if at all.”
Plaid Cymru’s Deputy Leader in the Senedd, Sian Gwenllian MS – who is also a spokesperson for young people and children – has called for an update on vaccine rollout in young people.
The latest figures from Public Health Wales indicate that just over half of 16 and 17-year-olds have received a first dose, and just 10% have received a second dose.
Schools in Wales will reopen from 1 September, she said the “rise in cases is happening the week before pupils return to school is an additional cause for concern.”
“We need reassurance there’s increased focus on monitoring the spread of the virus in children and young people, especially as only half of 16 and 17 years olds have received a first dose of the vaccine.”
“We can’t allow the virus to spread freely amongst our children and young people, especially with emerging evidence about the impact of long-COVID on this age group.” MS Gwenllian said.
Asked about the vaccination of children, the health minister told BBC Radio Wales: “What we’ve been doing is to follow the advice that we’ve been given from the experts as we have throughout this pandemic.”
“The comforting thing is that we have already given vaccinations to over 50% of those 16 to 18-year-olds,
“It was only last Friday that they were offered the vaccination, so we are really thrilled that that people are taking that up.
“We are very keen for as many people as possible to come forward in particular in those younger age groups, where we’ve seen the spread of the virus.
“We know that there are more festivals this weekend, [we are] concerned about people coming back obviously from those festivals with the virus. so really a plea to those in particular, those in the younger age groups to get their vaccination.”
“In the under sixteens again, we won’t do anything unless the JCVI gives us that recommendation to press ahead.”