Over-70s in England could begin receiving their booster vaccines to protect them against new Covid-19 variants from September.
Vaccines Minister Nadhim Zahawi has said that the first booster doses would be distributed to the top four priority groups, which includes care home staff, NHS workers and the clinically extremely vulnerable.
Speaking to The Telegraph, Zahawi said that the Government is expecting up to eight different jabs to be available by the autumn, including one which can protect against three different strains of the virus in a single dose.
‘Most likely date will be September’
When asked when the booster programme would begin, Zahawi said: “The most likely date will be September.
“Jonathan Van-Tam [Deputy Chief Medical Officer] thinks that if we are going to see a requirement for a booster jab to protect the most vulnerable, [it] would be around September.”
The Vaccines Minister added that drive through vaccine centres are likely to appear across the UK in the coming months.
He said: “We did some fantastic pilots of drive-in jabs that went really well. And again, as we go down the cohorts in the current deployment you’re going to see more of that.
“It’s a great way as you do the under-tos, the under 40s, under 30s. Convenience becomes a much greater tool to deploy because you want to make sure for those people, where we think there may be greater hesitancy, we can make it as convenient as possible.”
Vaccines for children
The Telegraph also revealed earlier in the week that children could expect to receive Covid vaccines from August.
Government officials are waiting on the results of a child vaccine study being conducted by Oxford University before making any final decisions.
While children are unlikely to fall ill with Covid-19, they do play a part in spreading the virus.
Responding to reports that children could receive their vaccines from August, Professor Adam Finn, who sits on the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), said: “As far as I know there has been no decision made to immunise children starting in August, or indeed any decision been taken to immunise children at all at this point.
“But it’s certainly something that we might need to do.”
The professor explained that results from more than one study are required, and added: “If it does turn out to be necessary to immunise children, I think it is more likely that we would prioritise teenagers over young children, simply because the evidence we have at the moment is that transmission of the virus is more likely to occur from and between teenagers who are a little bit more like adults.
“I think what we need to learn before that [is] what proportion of the population we need to immunise in order to get effective herd immunity and to suppress circulation of the virus.
“In order to do that, we need to have a clear understanding of how efficiently the vaccines actually interrupt infection and transmission, and that evidence is still on its way at the moment.”