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Third Covid vaccine jab 'to be offered to over 50s in autumn'
5 May 2021, 05:48 | Updated: 5 May 2021, 08:16
A third dose of a coronavirus vaccine will be offered to everyone aged over 50 in the autumn, according to a report.
The move comes as health experts look to ensure new variants of the virus don't bypass protection afforded by jabs in the future.
The Times has said two plans are under consideration – one involving vaccines which have been modified to deal with new variants while the other would see patients get a third dose of one of the vaccines that have already been approved.
Speaking on LBC on Wednesday, Vaccines Minister Nadhim Zahawi said the decision on whether this goes ahead will be taken by England's Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty and other UK medical officers.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock has already announced that an extra 60 million doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine have been bought to be used as booster shots later in the year.
During last week's Downing Street press conference, Mr Hancock said: "To keep us safe and free here, while we get this disease under control across the whole world, we have been working on a programme of booster shots for over a year now.
"And we've backed some of the only clinical trials in the world looking specifically at booster shots.
UK secures extra Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine doses for booster programme
"I'm delighted to be able to tell you that we've secured a further 60 million doses of Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine that will be used alongside others as part of our booster shot programme later this year."
He added: "We have a clear route out of this crisis but this is no time for complacency, it’s a time for caution, so we can keep the virus under control while we take the steps safely back to normal life.
"So please remember the basics of hands face space and fresh air and crucially, if like me you get the call, join me and get the jab."
More details on the booster scheme are due to be published by the Government.
Results from a trial into mixing different vaccines will also inform how the programme works.
The UK has secured access to more than 500 million doses of Covid vaccines so far, with the extra Pfizer/BioNTech jabs taking the total order for that vaccine to 100 million doses.
Across the UK, 34,667,904 first doses have been given out and 15,630,007 second jabs have been given.
Surge testing has been deployed to parts of the country where different variants, including the South African one, have been found, with experts worried that vaccines may be less effective against them, or that they could transmit more easily.