Wales awaiting vaccines as new covid variant causes concern
Concerns have been raised about the availability of Covid-19 vaccines as Wales prepares to roll out the autumn booster programme next week.
Last week Health Minister Eluned Morgan confirmed the autumn flu and Covid-19 vaccine programme in Wales would start a month earlier than planned.
The move follows advice from health officials after a new variant of the virus which causes Covid-19 was detected in the UK in August.
The variant, known as BA.2.86, (Pirola) 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.
The roll-out of the winter respiratory vaccination programme will begin on 11 September with the vaccination of care home residents using existing vaccine stock.
Dr Phil White, Deputy Chair of the British Medical Association (BMA) Welsh Council, has predicted new supplies of vaccine should be available from late September onwards.
“Ideally the sooner we get it the better – but supply issues have always been a major problem,” he said.
“Some years some vaccines have been very difficult to produce in huge quantities and it has altered slightly and that takes time to produce.”
“Covid has certainly not gone away and over the summer months we’ve seen quite a few cases – we’re seeing less seriously ill people, but the variant does appear to be more infectious,” he said.
The latest coronavirus variant of concern in the UK is the heavily-mutated ‘Pirola’ which is quickly spreading around the world.
Incidence of the variant in Wales is unclear at present and levels of Covid across the UK are no longer monitored by the Office of National Statistics, which ended its weekly reporting in March.
Public Health Wales (PHW) continues to track some statistics and trends on a weekly basis however.
Dr Chris Williams, Consultant Epidemiologist for PHW said: “Now that community and population level testing has ended, PHW monitors different signals for decision makers, the health service and the public.
“Our surveillance looks at broader trends including some GP attendances, hospitalisations, mortality, vaccinations, and respiratory illness reports to us from the health service. This information is published on our website.”
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