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Autumn Covid vaccine programme brought forward after new variant detected

30 Aug 2023 3 minute read
Photo Danny Lawson PA Images

Health Minister Eluned Morgan has confirmed the autumn flu and Covid-19 vaccine programme in Wales is to start earlier than planned this year.

The move follows advice from health officials after a new variant of the virus which causes Covid-19 was detected in the UK earlier this month.

The variant, known as BA.2.86, is being described by scientists as the most concerning new variant since Omicron first emerged.

It is not currently classified as a “variant of concern”, but officials have said it carries a high number of mutations.

Advice from the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA), the independent expert advisory committee, which advises all United Kingdom health departments, recommended vaccinations would start on September 11 rather than in October.

Dame Jenny Harries, UKHSA chief executive, said: “As we continue to live with Covid-19, we expect to see new variants emerge.

“Thanks to the success of our vaccine programme, we have built strong, broad immune defences against new variants throughout the population. However, some people remain more vulnerable to severe illness from Covid-19.”

The UKHSA advised that speeding up the autumn vaccine programme would deliver greater protection, particularly for those at greatest risk of severe illness.

This could also reduce any potential impact on the NHS.

Dame Jenny added that the potential impact of BA.2.86 was “difficult to estimate” due to “limited information” being available.

“As with all emergent and circulating Covid-19 variants – both in the UK and internationally – we will continue to monitor BA.2.86 and to advise government and the public as we learn more,” she said.


Eluned Morgan said in a statement: “As ever, the primary aim of the Covid-19 vaccination programme is to boost immunity in those at higher risk from Covid-19 and to improve protection against severe illness, hospitalisation and death”.

The JCVI is recommending the use of both the approved bivalent Omicron BA4-5 mRNA and monovalent XBB vaccines (subject to licensure by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA))

The latest Covid-19 variant vaccines which are available will be prioritised for use in persons at higher individual clinical risk of severe Covid-19.

The minister added: “The roll-out of Wales’ winter respiratory vaccination programme will begin on 11 September and prioritise the protection of those groups most at risk.  The programme will commence with the vaccination of care home residents using existing vaccine stock. Planning in Wales by NHS organisations is well advanced to prepare for the autumn programme and appointments will issue in the next few weeks.

“Our approach for the winter respiratory vaccination programme will ensure that people who are eligible are also protected from seasonal flu.

“Timely boosting has been advised by the JCVI to increase and update protection over the winter and we urge people to come forward for both these vaccines when offered. It is the best way to protect yourselves and your families and to keep Wales safe this winter.”

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Mab Meirion
Mab Meirion
10 months ago

What does the Baroness do apart from confirm statements for her near six figure salary !

max wallis
max wallis
10 months ago

Child nasal spray vaccine is quite different from adult Covid jabs. Evidence is the old vaccines being used up in the UK are hardly effective against the new variants, that’s why new vaccines are to be used in the US. Beware of PHW and the ignorant Welsh Minister pressurising people to take Covid jabs on the back of children (and adult) flu jabs.

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