The government is “confident” that a Covid vaccine booster programme will get the green light in the next few days, the health secretary has said.
Speaking on Wednesday Sajid Javid suggested his vaccine advisory committee would spell out the terms of the programme this week, saying the work on the scheme was “almost done”.
"I’m very confident there will be a booster programme but in terms of who actually gets it and when, we’re waiting for final advice, which could come across certainly in the next few days from the JCVI. We need to see that advice,” Mr Javid told Sky News.
"That work is almost done and based on the timeline they’ve given us, I’m confident we could start the booster programme this month."
The government’s vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi yesterday said the booster shots were “probably the most important piece of the jigsaw yet to fall into place” for ending the pandemic.
He added that the NHS was effectively “ready to go” to “to operationalise a massive booster programme”.
The NHS is reportedly planning to combine a Covid vaccination booster drive with the annual flu jab programme, which could see third jabs going into arms as soon as this month.
But there remains much uncertainty about how a booster vaccination scheme would work. Last week, a person close to the JCVI told The Independent the experts were resisting intense political pressure to approve vaccines for 12-15-year-olds in order to preserve Britain’s vaccine supplies for booster jabs.
Although no formal parameters have yet been set, most scientists expect the JCVI to recommend a booster programme focusing first on those most vulnerable to Covid, largely those aged over 50 and others who are vulnerable because of other underlying health conditions.
However, the deputy chairman of the JCVI, Anthony Harnden, said last week his committee did not want to rush its decision and would instead wait for results from the Cov-Boost study, to see what immune responses are prompted by third jabs and whether different Covid vaccines can be mixed and matched.
Asked about the prospect of other measures on Wednesday morning, health secretary Mr Javid said he had not examined whether it would be useful introduce a so-called "firebreak" lockdown in October.
"I don't think that's something we need to consider," he said.
"I haven't even thought about that as an option at this point.
The Health Secretary added: "Vaccines are working. Yes, there are still infections, of course there still are. That's true around the world. But the number of people going into hospital, and certainly those dying, is mercifully low, and that's because of the vaccines."
Join our new commenting forum
Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies