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The Independent UK
The Independent UK
Alex Ross

Covid jabs could be sold on the high street like flu vaccine


Covid jabs could be sold in shops like the flu vaccine in the coming months, as two high street retailers confirmed they were looking into the idea which is supported by the government.

Superdrug and Boots have told The Times they are exploring ways of selling Covid vaccines, which until now have only been available from the NHS.

It comes as latest figures from UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) show Covid infection rates have soared, with around one in 24 people in England and Wales likely to have tested positive in mid-December.

The rise in cases has led to concerns that NHS-only access to the vaccines may have resulted in a reduced uptake this winter with fewer than 70 per cent of over 65s in England having the seasonal jab by 13 December.

Access to the vaccine is unlike the flu jab, which is available to buy at pharmacists and private clinics priced between £10 and £20.

There are concerns that restrictions to access the vaccines could have led to a reduced uptake this winter
— (PA)

Last week, health minister Maria Caulfield said the government was supportive of the private sale of Covid vaccines and in talks with relevant groups.

In a parliamentary answer to a question on the issue, she added: “Currently Covid-19 vaccines are not available privately but as is the case for many other vaccines, manufacturers and providers are able to set up a private market alongside the NHS offer when they consider this viable and appropriate.”

A spokesman for Superdrug told The Times: “Superdrug is in discussions with suppliers about potentially offering a private Covid vaccination service in 2024. Ensuring healthcare is as accessible as possible for people is our priority and we’re interested in offering a private Covid vaccination.”

A Boots spokesperson said: “We would like to offer private Covid vaccinations and we are looking into how this might be possible. We already offer a range of vaccinations, including flu vaccinations for both private and NHS customers.”

Both Moderna and Pfizer, two of the biggest manufacturers of the vaccine, have said they are open to the possibility of providing the vaccines to private companies.

It’s not yet known how much a Covid jab could cost, but Moderna’s chief executive Stéphane Bancel said earlier this year that his company expected to price its vaccines at $130, which is around £100.

People currently eligible for the seasonal Covid vaccine are those aged 65 and over, people at increased risk and frontline health or social workers.

The move was first mooted in August last year when UKHSA said it supported the move toward the private sale of Covid vaccines. At the time, Professor Adam Finn of the University of Bristol, a member of the UK’s Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation, said he couldn’t see any reason why it shouldn’t happen.

Philippa Harvey, the director of the Covid vaccine unit at UKHSA, said: “The Covid-19 vaccine is not currently available to buy privately in the UK, but there is no blanket restriction on private sales of licensed vaccines.

“UKHSA will continue to work with manufacturers to ensure there is sufficient vaccine supply available to the NHS programme.”

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