Health Secretary Sajid Javid is “confident” that COVID booster jabs will begin to be given to the most vulnerable from next month.
The government is still waiting for the final advice from experts on plans to give out a third coronavirus vaccine dose.
The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) was due to meet on Thursday to discuss the potential booster campaign.
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And Mr Javid expressed his intent for the scheme to begin in a matter of weeks.
“We are going to have a booster scheme, it will start sometime in September,” the health secretary told broadcasters on a visit to north Cumbria on Thursday.
“I couldn’t tell you exactly when because before we start it, as people would expect, we need to get the final advice from our group of experts, our independent scientific and medical advisers – the JCVI.
“So, we’re waiting for their final opinion and, looking at everything and the timing of that, I’m confident that we can start in September when we will start with the most vulnerable cohorts and start offering that third jab.”
It comes after the UK reported another 113 coronavirus-related deaths and 36,572 new infections, according to government data.
A total of 47,284 people received their first COVID vaccine dose on Wednesday, including for the first time 16 and 17-year-olds.
Earlier on Thursday, JCVI member Professor Adam Finn said a decision was imminent that those who are “very unlikely to be well protected by those first two doses” of a COVID vaccine will need a third one.
However, Prof Finn added that “more evidence” was needed before a “firm decision” could be made on a “much broader booster programme”.
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Asked whether the JCVI was concerned about the progress of the booster scheme, Mr Javid replied: “I don’t think the JCVI is concerned about the progress, because the JCVI is a really important part of delivering the booster scheme.
“It’s only with their expert advice that the government would want to continue with their plans.
“I don’t want to prejudge what they’re going to say but, based on their interim advice, I think that we can be confident that we will start a booster scheme next month.”
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