Ministers hope the extra supplies — which will take No10’s total order to 100million — will start to be delivered from September through to early 2022 so everyone in the country can be offered a third vaccine.
Some of the supplies may also be used for second doses for under-30s vaccinated in June and July, who would expect their boosters in September and October. Young adults are not likely to get the AstraZeneca vaccine because of concerns about blood clots.
The autumn vaccine rollout will offer everyone who has been vaccinated a third jab, either of the same type or potentially a different vaccine if studies prove this works, to boost their immunity for the long-term, officials said.
The extra jabs will be the same as the Pfizer ones given out at the moment, not specific ones targeted at the South Africa or Brazil variants, although the company is working on these.
Pfizer, which manufactures the vaccine in factories across Europe, has already supplied the UK with at least 16million doses since its first delivery at the start of December. All 40million doses of the initial order are due by the end of 2021.
Mr Hancock said at a Downing Street briefing today that ‘evidence is stacking up that the vaccine protects you, it protects your loved ones, and it’s the way out of this pandemic’.
60million extra doses of Pfizer’s vaccine will put it on par with AstraZeneca’s as the most widely available in the country, with 100million doses of each. The UK has enough supplies on order to vaccinate the entire population many times over
Health Secretary Matt Hancock announced at Downing Street today that the Government is buying booster jabs to try and minimise the threat of a new vaccine-dodging variant appearing later in the year
Mr Hancock said: ‘The biggest risk to that progress is the risk posed by a new variant, so we’re working on our plans for booster shots, too…
‘We’ve backed some of the only clinical trials in the world looking specifically at booster shots. I’m delighted to be able to tell you that we’ve secured a further 60million doses of the 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 back to normal life.’
He reiterated that everyone over the age of 42 is now eligible for a coronavirus vaccine and that he was ‘looking forward to getting my jab first thing tomorrow morning’.
The supply boost means that Britain now has orders in for 517million doses of vaccines, enough to vaccinate .
This includes 100m doses of Pfizer, 100m of AstraZeneca, 17m of Moderna, 30m of Johnson & Johnson, 60m of Novavax, 100m of Valneva, 60m of GlaxoSmithKline and 50m of CureVac.
The Health Secretary praised the high uptake of the vaccines, with more than 95 per cent of over-70s now immunised with at least one dose and more than half of them fully vaccinated.
And he said the Government now has its ‘first concrete evidence’ that vaccines reduce the transmission of Covid-19, which adds to proof that it reduces the risk of death, hospital admission or severe disease.
The latest data looking at people who had been given one dose of a vaccine found they were up to 50 per cent less likely to pass on the disease to someone in their household.
‘We’re looking at whether the second dose gives an even bigger effect,’ said Mr Hancock.
‘We know that indoor settings have the highest risk of transmission so these results are really encouraging in terms of the impact of the vaccine on reducing transmission.
‘What it means is the evidence is stacking up that the vaccine protects you, your loved ones and it is the way out of this pandemic.’
Depending on when Britain gets the extra 60million Pfizer jabs, health chiefs may recommend some are used for people in their 30s who are expected to get jabs within weeks.
AstraZeneca’s vaccine, the workhorse of the UK’s roll-out, is safe to use but the drug regulator said there is a possibility it raises the risk of extremely rare blood clots in some people. Around 168 cases have been spotted in 21million people so far.
To be cautious No10’s advisory panel ruled under-30s should be offered an alternative jab because their Covid risk is incredibly low.
JCVI bosses hinted today that officials could press ahead with the same recommendation for people aged 30 to 40, but only if there is enough supplies of Pfizer and Moderna to do so.
Professor Anthony Harnden told MPs that delaying the immunisation roll-out — which could happen if the move was made without enough extra doses being available — could ‘push infection rates up’ and lead to ‘many, many more deaths and hospitalisations’.
Britain’s first-dose rollout has already slowed drastically over the past month, with supply issues forcing the NHS to focus entirely on dishing out second doses.
Just 115,000 first-timers are getting jabbed every day now, according to Department of Health figures. More than 750,000 Britons were inoculated on one day in mid-March.
For comparison, the number of second doses being dished out stands at around 390,000. More than a quarter of all adults have now been fully vaccinated and nearly 34million adults have had their first dose.
The success of the vaccine programme means that the country will continue on its roadmap schedule towards coming out of lockdown for good on June 21.
Matt Hancock added: ‘The data show that we are essentially precisely on track for where we expected to be at this point and that is obviously good news.
‘It means we can follow the road map – and we look at the data all the time. The dates we set out are not-before dates because we want to see the impact of each step before the decision to take the next step.
‘That’s why the road map has been structured the way it is, so that we can check that we are on track.
‘The good news is that as far as the next step is concerned, which is in a few weeks’ time – and we’re going to keep monitoring the data – but as of today, we are on track for step three on May 17 and that is good news.’