Booster booking for all adults in Wales by year’s end says Drakeford – as two doses ‘not enough’ to beat Omicron
First Minister Mark Drakeford will tonight set out Wales’ aim to offer all eligible adults an appointment for a booster vaccine by the end of December.
Urgent plans are being put in place to further accelerate the booster programme as new evidence has emerged showing two doses of the Covid-19 vaccine are not enough to offer protection against the new omicron variant.
But in a televised message to Wales at 7pm, the First Minister will say that the booster dose is vital in improving protection against the fast-moving variant.
He will also say that “further steps” may be needed in the coming weeks to keep Wales safe.
“We must be prepared for omicron cases to rise quickly and very steeply – just as they have in other parts of the UK,” Mark Drakeford will say.
“We are still learning about this new form of coronavirus. All the information we have tells us we are facing a very serious situation. By the end of the month, omicron will have become the dominant form of the virus in Wales, bringing a new wave of infections and illness.
“This could then translate into a large number of people needing hospital treatment just at a time when the NHS is already under significant pressure. The Welsh Government will do everything we can to protect people’s health and keep Wales safe.
“New evidence has emerged about the effectiveness of our vaccines against omicron. Two doses of the vaccine is simply not enough to give the level of protection against the infection we all need. We have already increased the speed of the roll-out of our booster programme.
“New clinics have been opened and operating hours extended. Urgent efforts are now underway to accelerate the programme even further so we can offer all eligible adults an appointment by the end of this year if possible.
“Please make getting a booster a priority, as it is the single of the most important things you can do to protect yourself against coronavirus and this new variant.”
The First Minister said that “none of us” wanted to hear that we had to deal with the new Omicron variant.
“After almost two long years of the pandemic, we had all hoped that we could put coronavirus behind us this Christmas,” he said. “Unfortunately, we are once again facing a serious and worsening situation. But, we have faced challenges many times during this pandemic.
“We can once again pull together to look out for each other – for friends, family and neighbours – to protect each other and keep ourselves safe and well. We have already taken some steps to increase protections in Wales and we may need to take some further steps to keep Wales safe.”
Public Health Wales had said earlier that known Omicron cases have doubled in Wales and are now present in every health board area.
Dr Meng Khaw, National Director for Health Protection and Screening Services for Public Health Wales, said they could confirm 15 new cases of Omicron variant in Wales.
“This brings us to a total of 30 cases, of which three are linked to international travel,” he said. “There are now Omicron cases in every health board area in Wales.
“In total, there are now four cases are in the Aneurin Bevan University Health Board area, five are in the Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board area, four in the Cwm Taf Morgannwg University Health Board area, and 14 in the Cardiff & Vale University Health Board area. There is one case each in the Hywel Dda University Health Board area, the Powys Teaching Health Board area, and the Swansea Bay University Health Board area.
“As we have said previously, an increase in cases of Omicron variant in Wales is to be expected.”
Wales’ Chief Medical Officer Dr Frank Atherton said this morning that he had previously thought that Omicron was a problem for January but he now expected a rising tide of infections sooner as Omicron spread in the community over Christmas.
He added that it was almost inevitable that some new restrictions would be introduced but that a national lockdown was not expected.
“It will almost inevitably lead to more people in hospital and we are starting to see that across the UK, and here in Wales,” he said.
“I’m very worried about what is going to happen over the next two or three weeks. For the simple reason that the doubling time of the infection in the UK seems to be about two days – if we’re lucky.
“And that rapidly leads us into huge waves of community transmission.” He said that would transform into hospital admissions two weeks later, and two weeks after that into deaths.
“When I first heard about Omicron I thought it would be a problem for January or February. With these doubling rates and the likely transmission in communities, we’re far more likely to see a problem running into the Christmas period and then into January.
“So that’s what has led us needing to raise the alert level.”