Second doses of Covid vaccine brought forward as Delta variant continues to spread across Wales

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Wales' vaccine rollout is being brought forward, following concerns over the 'increased' spreading of the Delta variant of coronavirus.

There are now cases of the Delta variant - which was previously known as the Indian variant - in all parts of Wales, which shows it is spreading in communities.

This increase is driving the rise in coronavirus rates - roughly four out of five new Covid-19 cases are caused by the Delta variant.

However, there is "good evidence" to suggest two doses of the vaccine is helping to reduce the risk of hospitalisation, experts say.

Therefore, in the next four weeks, an extra half a million vaccines will be put into the system in Wales to speed up second doses.

In a press conference on Monday 21 June, Eluned Morgan, Minister for Health and Social Services said: "There is good emerging evidence to suggest two doses of the vaccine is helping to reduce the risk of hospitalisation as a result of the delta variant."

On Friday, the First Minister Mark Drakeford said there will be no further changes to the coronavirus regulations and alert levels for four weeks because of the spread of the delta variant.

Between now and mid-July, the Welsh Government will be focused on offering a second dose to everyone in priority groups one to nine over the next four weeks – that’s everyone over 50, all healthcare workers, social care workers, and other vulnerable groups, including care home residents.

And, subject to supply, appointments will be brought forward for the people over 40 so they don’t have to wait longer than eight weeks between their first and second doses.

The Delta variant was first identified in October 2020, with first cases in Wales being linked to two clusters in Cardiff in early May 2021.

Cases were then found in Newport and Swansea. A third and larger cluster then emerged in Conwy.

Since then, there have been more 'unlinked cases' found across the country.

The latest information, which has been published by Public Health Wales today, shows there are now 579 confirmed cases in Wales.

Dr Chris Jones, Wales’ deputy chief medical officer said the Delta variant is more transmissible than the Kent variant - now known as the Alpha - which caused the majority of the cases in the winter peak.

It is not known whether this increase in cases will cause a rise in hospital admissions.

What we don’t know yet in Wales, is whether, as cases begin to rise again, this will cause an increase in hospital admissions.

There have been 12 hospital admissions in Wales as a result of Delta to date, but the Welsh Government says this could rise.

Dr Chris Jones said: "We are at the beginning of a third peak driven by Delta and we are probably two to three weeks behind what’s happening in England and Scotland, where Delta has been spreading for longer."

"Across the UK, we are starting to see an increase in the number of people who have been admitted to hospital, although at the moment, this remains relatively low, which suggests vaccination is providing strong protection against infection and severe disease."

About two-thirds of the people admitted to hospital in England were not vaccinated compared to 11% who were fully vaccinated.

When asked if Wales could enter another lockdown in the winter, Eluned Morgan said there is a lot of uncertainty but what happens next "depends on how the Welsh public responds".

She said people have to "hold tight" and soon "learn to live with this virus".