A third Covid jab will be offered to everyone over the age of 50 in a bid to wipe out the virus by Christmas, it has been reported.
Trials are said to be under way to both research specially modified vaccines to tackle new variants and analyse the effects of a third shot as part of a course of inoculations.
The research is said to be supervised by Chris Whitty, the chief medical officer for England.
In the UK three different vaccines are currently being used to protect against coronavirus – Pfizer-BioNTech, Oxford-AstraZeneca and Moderna.
As part of the mass inoculation effort nearly 35 million first doses of a Covid vaccine have been given, as well as 15.6 million second doses administered.
The over-40s are now being offered a jab as the scheme is rolled out at speed.
The Times reports that as part of new trials the over-50s could be given a third course of the jab in the autumn to boost protection to the end of the year.
The paper reports that early findings from the trials have ‘spurred on government hopes that the two approaches will be able to nullify any threat from new and existing variants.’
It is also said that the third jab would only go to that age category and those with underlying health conditions who may be at higher risk.
Reportedly, one method of delivering the booster would be at the same time as the annual flu jab, but in the other arm.
A senior government minister was reported to have said: “We will have a lot to say about the booster programme soon. It’s looking really positive so far.
“We think that the level of protection in the population to any variant will be so high that by Christmas, Covid-19 should have just faded away into the background like any other illness in circulation.
“So much so that we don’t think there will be any need to give a booster shot to younger people because transmission will have got so low.”
It comes ahead of a likely easing of restrictions from May 17 which will see a raft of freedoms returned.
Among the eased restrictions pubs, cafes and restaurants will be able to welcome customers back indoors, while cinemas and attractions including museums can re-open.
Some foreign travel is also expected to open up with further details on this expected in the coming days.