PEOPLE with asthma who are not included in priority group six for coronavirus vaccination will be disappointed, Wales' health minister Vaughan Gething has acknowledged.

It has emerged in recent days that some people with severe asthma - such as those taking oral steroids or who have been hospitalised in the past due to severe symptoms - will be included in priority group six, while others may not.

Priority group six covers people aged 16-64 years with underlying health conditions which put them at higher risk of serious illness or death.

It is the same cohort of people deemed to be in an 'at risk' group for the purposes of receiving an annual flu jab on the NHS.

Previous guidance appeared to indicate that people using steroid inhalers, included in the annual flu vaccine invitation, would be eligible for group six Covid-19 vaccination too.

But research has indicated there is no evidence that people with mild asthma are at a greatly increased risk of hospital admission or death because of coronavirus.

NHS guidance however, has described people with non-severe forms of asthma as “clinically vulnerable.


There has been mounting confusion and anxiety among asthma sufferers at this apparent change in guidance and charities, including Asthma UK, have calling for urgent clarification of the position.

Asked about the issue at today's Welsh Government coronavirus briefing, Mr Gething said "it is all about understanding the risk" to people with asthma.

He said the Welsh Government expects a consistent position to be taken across the UK on the matter of priority for people in 'at risk' groups, based on how the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation decides who should qualify for group six inclusion.

"There will be people who are disappointed if they are not in that particular group," Mr Gething admitted, adding that he wants there to be some clarity on the issue, and for the details of inclusion to be published so people can seek them out, to determine whether they are included or not, and to understand the reasons if they are not.

"Some people will be disappointed that they will not be in group six when they expect to be," he said.

He added that "it is about protecting the most vulnerable" as soon as possible, to in turn protect against the "harm that will come into our NHS" if that path is not maintained.

There are 321,400 people deemed to be eligible for priority group six in Wales - the group also includes unpaid carers - though it is not known whether this number includes all asthma sufferers, and whether it needs to be updated to remove those with milder asthma.

The vaccination programme for priority groups five-nine will be carried out through the spring, and it is hoped that by some point in May, everyone aged 50 or over will have been offered the vaccine.