Health Minister Vaughan Gething has defended the decision, backed by the UK’s four chief medical officers, to delay giving the second dose of a Covid vaccine to people who have received the first jab.
On Wednesday it was announced that second doses of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine and the Pfizer/BioNTech jab would now be given up to 12 weeks after the first dose instead of the three weeks that had been recommended.
The move applies to people scheduled to have their second dose of the Pfizer jab from tomorrow, as well as those yet to receive the vaccine.
In a written statement, Mr Gething said: “We are following the latest scientific advice as we have throughout the pandemic. Having studied evidence on both the Pfizer/BioNTech and Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccines the Joint Committee for Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) has advised that we should prioritise giving as many people in at-risk groups their first dose, rather than providing two doses in as short a time as possible.
“The four CMOs agree with the JCVI that at this stage of the pandemic prioritising the first doses of vaccine for as many people as possible on the priority list will protect the greatest number of at risk people overall in the shortest possible time. It will ensure that more at-risk people are able to get protection from a vaccine in the coming weeks and months, reducing deaths and starting to ease pressure on our NHS.
“The JCVI’s independent advice is that this approach will maximise the benefits of both vaccines. We are acting quickly on the updated advice from the JCVI, Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency and UK CMOs.”
Public Health Wales have also backed the move following the publication of a statement by JCVI.
Dr Giri Shankar, Incident Director for the Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak response at Public Health Wales, said: “Vaccinating the adult population of Wales, to protect people from severe disease, is a significant task, and the vaccine will take time to reach everyone. The epidemiology of COVID-19 throughout the UK in late 2020 showed a clear need for rapid, high levels of vaccine uptake among vulnerable persons.
“The JCVI supports a two-dose vaccine schedule for the Pfizer-BioNTech and AstraZeneca vaccines. Given the data available, and evidence from the use of many other vaccines, Public Health Wales fully supports the JCVI advice to increase a maximum interval between the first and second doses of 12 weeks for both vaccines.
“It can be assumed that protection from the first dose will wane in the medium term, and the second dose will still be required to provide more durable protection. The JCVI advises initially prioritising delivery of the first vaccine dose as this is highly likely to have a greater public health impact in the short term and reduce the number of preventable deaths from COVID-19.”
Meanwhile, the latest figures from Public Health Wales have confirmed a further 56 people have died after contracting coronavirus and 4,011 people have tested positive for the virus.
21 of the newly reported deaths were in the by Cwm Taf Morgannwg health board area.
Cardiff and Vale reported 10 deaths and there were nine in Hywel Dda, eight in Aneurin Bevan and six in Swansea Bay.
Betsi Cadwaladr and Powys each reported one death each.
Today’s report covers the 48-hour period from 09:00 GMT on 31 December to 09:00 on 2 January instead of the usual 24-hour period.
Cardiff (413) had the highest number of new cases over the two days followed by Bridgend (397) and Rhondda Cynon Taf (367).
Bridgend has the highest weekly case rate in Wales at 905.8 per 100,000 of the population.