6. Statement by the Cabinet Secretary for Health and Social Care: National Immunisation Framework for Wales

Part of the debate – in the Senedd at 4:51 pm on 21 May 2024.

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Photo of Baroness Mair Eluned Morgan Baroness Mair Eluned Morgan Labour 4:51, 21 May 2024

(Translated)

And at its heart, that is what the national immunisation framework is all about: maximising uptake across all our vaccination programmes. It’s sometimes easy to forget just how many dangerous and potentially life-limiting and life-threatening diseases we vaccinate against in Wales. Even before a baby is born, the mother will have been offered a number of vaccines to protect their baby in the first days and weeks of life. One of those is a vaccination against whooping cough. I am very concerned about the increase in the number of cases this year. Last week, it was reported that five babies in England had died from whooping cough this year. Fortunately, there have been no deaths in Wales to date, but this tragic news should act as a warning to all of us. I appeal to pregnant women in Wales to please come forward to have this very safe and effective vaccination.  

Over the past year, we’ve also seen a significant resurgence in cases of measles around the world. Last autumn, there was an outbreak in Cardiff and the Vale of Glamorgan. We are currently dealing with another case in the Aneurin Bevan University Health Board area. It is hugely disappointing to see the return of measles outbreaks in Wales. With several sustained outbreaks over the border, the risk here remains high. It is therefore vital that we take action to improve protection against this serious illness. In February, the Chief Medical Officer for Wales wrote to health boards asking them to ensure 90 per cent of learners in schools were fully vaccinated by the end of July. I realise the amount of work this involves for our immunisation teams and school nurses, and I would like to offer my sincere thanks to everyone engaged in this catch-up effort.

Dirprwy Lywydd, I now want to turn to the next steps in the framework. Members will be aware that the development of digital solutions to support vaccination in Wales has been an important milestone. I asked Digital Health and Care Wales to undertake digital discovery work to considedr the way forward. I’m pleased to say that work has been completed and next steps to move to the implementation phase are now being considered. I want to thank everyone involved in this important piece of work. Our seasonal vaccination programmes continue to offer important protection to vulnerable people, and to the health and care services. The COVID-19 spring booster programme is currently in full swing, and the winter respiratory programme delivered more than 1.7 million COVID and flu vaccines. 

The national immunisation framework sets out our ambition to move to a centralised model for the procurement of flu vaccine. This would remove the burden of procurement from general practitioners and pharmacists, and create a more flexible system to support the wider ambitions of the framework. Significant progress has been made, and I hope to be in a position to give more details about this in the coming months. Finally, I just want to say what a privilege it was to address the Welsh immunisation conference last month. It was fantastic to witness the energy, passion and commitment to developing a world-leading vaccination service. My sincere thanks go to everyone involved in delivering this valuable service to the people of Wales.