Update on the progress of our vaccination programme.
Our Winter respiratory vaccination strategy sets out our plans for an integrated vaccination programme. It details how we will offer both the flu and COVID-19 booster vaccines to eligible individuals this year.
Our 3 main priorities for our winter respiratory vaccination programme are:
- protecting those at greatest risk
- protecting children and young people
- ensuring that nobody is left behind by continuing to offer the initial course of the COVID-19 vaccine
The Winter Respiratory Vaccination Programme (WRVP) commenced on 1 September 2022. It brings together the COVID-19 and flu vaccination programmes.
Progress against strategy
Protecting those at greatest risk
Vaccination for the COVID eligible groups started on 1 September. The programme began vaccinating:
- residents and staff working in care homes for older adults
- individuals who are housebound
- frontline health and social care workers
All individuals eligible for a COVID-19 booster vaccination should now have received their vaccination offer. If you are eligible but have not received your invite, please contact your local health board. All health boards are now operating walk-in clinics. You can find out more information on your health board’s website.
The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) has identified these groups as eligible for a booster:
- all adults aged 50 years and over
- persons aged 5 to 49 years in a clinical risk group, as set out in the Green Book (gov.uk)
- persons aged 5 to 49 years who are household contacts of people with immunosuppression, as defined in the Green Book (gov.uk)
- persons aged 16-49 who are carers
All individuals eligible for flu vaccination, which includes everyone over 50, should now have had an opportunity to receive their vaccination. If you are eligible but have not yet taken up your invite, please find out more about how you can access your vaccine in your area of Wales. Some health boards are now operating ‘walk-in’ arrangements, including for children to receive their flu nasal spray.
Protecting children and young people
The following are eligible for the flu vaccination this year:
- children aged 2 and 3 years
- children in primary school from reception class to Year 6
- children and young people in secondary school Year 7 to Year 11
- people aged 6 months to 49 years in a clinical risk group as set out in the Welsh Health Circular on flu
Parents or guardians will be asked to give consent. We encourage parents, guardians, children and young people to discuss together whether or not to have the vaccination. Factual information is available on the Public Health Wales website to help make this decision.
Most children and young people will get their COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination centre. Some areas will also be offering the vaccine through special schools. Vaccine roll-out will be informed by local knowledge and may change depending on circumstances.
Health boards will mainly use school nursing services to deliver the children’s nasal flu spray vaccine. Follow up sessions and the use of GPs will also be part of the vaccination deployment model. Deployment plans are currently being reviewed to ensure vaccine uptake is maximised this year, particularly in the context of current high levels of respiratory illnesses circulating in the community and other viruses, such as Scarlet Fever and Streptococcus A (strep A). ‘Walk in’ options are now becoming available to provide greater flexibility for families and ensure levels of protection are maximised.
Nobody left behind
Vaccine equity remains a key principle of Wales’ vaccination programme. The ‘nobody left behind’ principle, embedded into our vaccination strategy, is built on the premise that everyone should have fair access and fair opportunity to take up the offer of a vaccination.
Health Boards are continuing to work in partnership with wider stakeholder groups and key partners. The NHS will continue to make the vaccine available and accessible to achieve high levels of uptake.
The National Immunisation Framework describes vaccination equity as being at the core of service design and delivery. The Framework outlines key actions to make this a reality for all vaccination programmes.
Summary of our overall progress
In line with our strategy, all eligible individuals were issued with an invitation to receive a COVID-19 vaccine by 30 November and an opportunity to receive their flu vaccine by 31 December. We are now in the ‘nobody left behind’ phase of the programme with health boards seeking to maximise uptake through a continuing offer, via walk-in clinics..
Since commencement of the Winter Respiratory Vaccination Programme on 1 September:
- 1,125,326 COVID-19 boosters have been given (as at 23 January 2023)
- 15,360 COVID-19 boosters have been given to staff working in care homes (as at 23 January 2023)
- 12,104 COVID-19 boosters have been given to care home residents (as at 23 January 2023)
- 38,048 COVID-19 boosters have been given to people who are severely immunosuppressed (as at 23 January 2023)
The summary of flu uptake published by Public Health Wales on 19 January 2023 notes the following uptake levels, which are broadly in line with previous years at this point in the campaign:
- 75.2% of 65 years and older
- 42.1% of those at risk aged 6 months to 64 years
- 41.7% of children aged 2 and 3 years
- 43.6% of NHS staff
Case study: Staff flu vaccinations in Cwm Taf Morgannwg University Health Board
Health board Flu Champion advocates the flu vaccine.
Ann works in a hospital in Cwm Taf Morgannwg University Health Board. In autumn 2020 a peer vaccinator offered Ann a flu vaccination. She refused the vaccine as she thought a flu jab in a previous year had made her unwell with flu like symptoms. Ann believed it had given her flu. She discussed her worries with the peer vaccinator. The peer vaccinator assured her that the vaccine cannot give you the flu.
They discussed the protection offered by the vaccine against flu and the expected minor, short term side effects of the vaccine. Also, that it takes up to two weeks for most protection against flu following vaccination. It was possible that Ann had a developing flu or a cold infection before the vaccination. This reassured Ann about why she had the flu like symptoms after her last flu vaccine.
Ann received the flu vaccine in autumn 2020. She reported that she had no flu like symptoms afterwards. Ann has since become an advocate for the flu vaccine. In 2021 Ann arranged a drop-in session for flu vaccination at her hospital which was very successful.
This year Ann recorded a video for Cwm Taf Morgannwg University Health Board. Ann talked about her positive experience with the flu vaccine in the video. She said: ‘I was afraid of being unwell’. She encouraged everyone to take up the offer of a flu vaccination: ‘it is so important that you get the jab’. The video was shared in staff social media platforms. It received 433 views during a week-long campaign to increase uptake.
Ann hopes her story will help everyone to overcome their fear of the flu vaccine. And the myth that you can become ill with the flu from having a flu vaccination.