What consideration has been given to giving added protection to immunosuppressed people, during this Omicron wave, including through potential additional support in relation to their employment where they are unable to work from home?
Immunosuppressed individuals have been given priority status, as part of the clinical high risk group, since the commencement of Covid-19 vaccination programme, in line with Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) advice. From September 2021, NHS Wales began implementing the Committee’s advice that a third primary vaccine dose should be offered to individuals aged 12 years and over with severe immunosuppression who had a weakened immune system at the time of either, or both, of their first two vaccine doses.
As part of the response to the emergence of the Omicron variant, the Welsh Government accepted JCVI advice to offer people in the severely immunosuppressed group who have completed their primary course, a booster (as a fourth dose) three months after administration of their third dose. For added protection, for individuals who are the household contacts of the immunosuppressed, those aged 12 and over are being offered a booster dose, and those aged 5-11 are being offered two primary doses.
In addition to vaccinations, from 16 December the NHS in Wales started to use new treatments for Covid-19. People who are immunosuppressed may be eligible for these, if they test positive for Covid-19 following a PCR test. If they are eligible for treatment, in most cases their health board will telephone them once the outcome of the PCR is known. They will arrange an appointment with a healthcare professional who will decide whether the treatment is suitable for them. Further information can be found here https://gov.wales/covid-19-treatments
People who are immunosuppressed may receive personal advice from their doctor or clinician on the precautions they should continue to be taking. In addition to the legal requirements which have already been introduced at alert level 2, we would also encourage people to review risk assessments with employers around steps that can be taken to reduce risk in the workplace if they cannot work from home.