Covid Wales: Go-ahead for boosters and jabs for 12-15 year olds

  • Published
Related Topics
Media caption,

Health Minister Eluned Morgan explains the vaccination plans for 12 to 15-year-olds and the over-50s

Jabs for 12-15 year olds and boosters for the over-50s have been given the go-ahead in Wales.

Third doses will be offered to everyone over the age of 50, all front-line health and social care staff and all those with underlying health conditions.

Both programmes will start next week, with boosters given to care residents and staff and NHS workers first.

Young teenagers will be offered one dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.

The decision follows recommendations from senior UK medical advisers that it will help reduce disruption in schools.

The Welsh government wants to vaccinate all those 12-15 year olds who want a jab by the October half term.

It will be up to children and parents whether they decide to take up the vaccines. There are estimated to be 135,604 in the age group in Wales.

To date more than 2.3 million people have received one dose of a coronavirus vaccine in Wales, while 2.2 million have had both jabs.

This includes almost 56,000 16 to 17-year-olds who have taken up the offer of their first jab, the equivalent of 66% of the age group.

Health Minister Eluned Morgan said parents would have to weigh up the "risks and benefits", but she warned evidence showed one in seven children who got coronavirus could develop long Covid.

"The key concern for us is that we don't want to disrupt children's schooling any more than it has [been] already," she said.

Ms Morgan said the NHS was ready to deliver boosters and would start next week for people living and working in care homes, and front-line health and social care staff.

It will then be offered to everyone over 50, she told a press conference. Around 1.6 million people in Wales may benefit from the programme.

Gillian Richardson, deputy chief medical officer for vaccines, said scientific advice would determine whether those under 50 would receive boosters and if more jabs would be required.

She said: "We'll wait and see what JCVI [Joint Committee for Vaccination and Immunisation] says about the younger groups as the science comes through, and whether the booster campaign needs to be extended.

"Then we'll also be relying on the science to know how frequently... if we need an annual programme or a biannual programme or whatever it may be."

'A good thing'

Image caption,
Barbara Jones said she was "quite relieved" to hear over-50s would be offered a booster jab

Visitors to Batty's Nurseries in Penrhyn Bay, Conwy county, welcomed the opportunity to have a booster jab.

Alan Brierly, 81, said: "I think it's a good thing - we need any help we can get at our age."

Barbara Jones said: "I'm over 80 so I'm quite relieved we're going to get a booster this winter…

"Anything that will help improve matters for our age group - I'm all for it."

Announcing the plan on Tuesday, Ms Morgan also expressed concerns over pregnant women not coming forward for Covid vaccinations, urging them to speak to their midwife for advice.

Wales' vaccination programme is in line with plans in the other three UK nations and vaccines for 12-15 year olds have been confirmed in England.

Image source, Getty Images
Image caption,
Care staff and residents will be the first to get booster jabs

Government vaccine advisers made their recommendations on booster jabs on Tuesday morning.

The Pfizer jab is recommended, regardless of which vaccine people had previously, and it should be given at least six months after the second dose.

Ms Morgan said the length of time it took for the booster advice to be given was "rather frustrating".

She said the Welsh government had been ready to go "for a number of weeks" and the advice for young teenagers had also taken "longer than we had hoped".

Where will children be jabbed?

Image source, Getty Images
Image caption,
Eluned Morgan said ministers are concerned about continuing disruption in schools

There have been concerns from head teachers that they should not be involved in implementing the vaccination programmes.

On Tuesday the health minister said most of the jabs would "probably" take place in mass vaccination centres but others would also be administered in "some of the largest schools".

She said parents going with their children to mass vaccination centres would be given the "pros and cons" of the vaccine so they could make informed decisions together.

Those receiving it in a school would have a letter sent home to parents or guardians.

Teenagers aged 16 and 17 are able to consent themselves to treatment with no participation from their parents.

Parents or guardians will be asked to give consent for children under the age of 16 to have the jab.

Under-16s can also give consent themselves, but only if they are assessed to have enough understanding, intelligence and competence to make that decision.

The Welsh government said if a child and parent disagreed on the vaccine, officials would "follow the law and best practice on respecting children's rights and parental responsibility".

'It will give children normality'

Image caption,
Head teacher Huw Powell says anything that keeps pupils in school is positive

Huw Powell, head of Mary Immaculate High School in Cardiff, said the jab would keep pupils in school and give them "normality".

He told BBC Radio Wales Breakfast: "I think anything that allows pupils to remain in school, anything that allows them to avoid the disruption that we've seen for them in the last 18 months, it is a positive thing.

"As a school anything that keeps pupils in school is positive and we'd like to see it occur.

"We need the pupils in school, they need to be there, they need to be educated."

But he said the school would respect the choice of any child or parent who decided against getting the vaccine.

'Protecting those around us'

Image source, Siân-Elin Melbourne
Image caption,
Siân-Elin Melbourne says her son has already had the jab - and her daughter wants the vaccine to avoid missing any more school

Siân-Elin Melbourne, a councillor and teacher from Cardiff, has a 14-year-old daughter and a 16-year-old son.

Her son has already had a jab and the family have discussed the importance of having the vaccine.

She said: "As a family we felt we needed to have the jab. My husband is a diabetic so it was really important that we put things in place to protect him. We've got elderly relatives as well.

"It's not just simply looking at protecting ourselves, it's protecting all those around us. We have a responsibility to ensure that we're doing that."

But she said it was ultimately her daughter's choice whether she would have the vaccine.

Ms Melbourne added: "The biggest thing for her is she doesn't want to miss any more school. If she can ensure by having this injection that she's not going to be having to take time off school, then that's certainly a benefit for her."