The Welsh Government has set out plans to incorporate future Covid vaccinations into routine immunisation programmes.
In a National Immunisation Framework, the Government confirmed that a booster programme for Covid-19 would be going ahead this Autumn with more details to be announced.
And it said work was being done with health boards to plan for how to incorporate Covid-19 into a regular vaccination programme as happens with flu but that it was expected that digital booking systems set up in the pandemic would continue.
The plan notes that there will be a need to retain some surge capacity in the event of future waves but says ‘we hope this capacity will never be needed again’.
It has become increasingly clear that managing the virus is likely to be a long-term challenge, a report on the plans said.
With the expectation that Covid-19 vaccination, as with the flu jab, will become a regular programme, ‘in planning for a more stable delivery, to maintain protection, we are working with health boards to plan for some of the more likely scenarios into the spring and further into autumn and winter 2022/23’.
It will be the oldest and most vulnerable people in Wales who will need further protection, the report said, and the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation has also signalled an autumn 2022 programme of vaccinations for people who are at higher risk of severe illness from Covid-19.
Precise details of an autumn programme will be made available at a later stage, the Government said.
More than 6.8m doses of Covid-19 vaccinations had been administered with more than 91% of the over-12 population of Wales have been vaccinated with at least one dose, 86% with at least two doses and 70% with a third dose and/or a booster.
Work will continue to address inequalities in uptake and to ensure that under-served groups, such as those from minority ethnic backgrounds, disabled people and people who live in economically disadvantaged households have been provided with trusted information, the Government said.
Health minister Eluned Morgan said: ‘Vaccines have had an enormous impact on the course of the pandemic and have helped to weaken the link between the virus, serious illness, hospitalisations and death.
‘They have saved countless lives and given us the freedom and confidence to restart our lives in the midst of an ongoing global health emergency.’
She added: ‘This strategy sets out our plans for 2022 and beyond, including a commitment to deliver a regular Covid-19 vaccination programme while planning for any potential surge capacity, should we need to, in the case of a new pandemic wave or a new coronavirus variant.’
In England, PCN vaccination sites are ‘not expected’ to be the ‘primary delivery model’ for the spring Covid booster jab programme.
Local areas should prepare to potentially offer Covid boosters to all patients aged over 50, and those who are vulnerable, from September, NHS England added.