Everyone aged over 50 in the UK will be offered a third Covid-19 vaccination in the autumn in an attempt to eradicate the threat from the infection entirely by Christmas, it has been reported.
The first round of the vaccine rollout has continued to see mass uptake across the UK - with more than 50 million doses administered so far and 95 per cent of over 50s vaccinated by April.
Now trials are underway to assess the most effective way to immunise those in the most vulnerable age brackets in the autumn months to stop another spike in cases over winter, according to government sources cited by The Times.
Trials of two options are under way, supervised by Chris Whitty, the chief medical officer for England, the newspaper said - adding that the booster regimen could be enough to undercut the threat from both new and existing variants of the virus.
The first reportedly involves vaccines specifically modified to tackle new variants, while the second is for a third shot of one of the three versions already in use: Pfizer-BioNTech , Oxford-AstraZeneca or Moderna.
It is thought the jab could be offered to the public alongside the flu vaccine at the same time, with patients given each immunisation in opposite arms.
An unnamed government minister told the paper: “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 into the background like any other illness in circulation.”
They added that the level of public immunity will be such that the young will not need the booster to ensure rates of illness are kept down - much like the current response to influenza in the UK.
More than 34.6 million people in the UK have been given a first dose of Covid-19 vaccine, according to the latest government statistics.
The country has deals for over 510 million doses of eight different vaccines, some of which remain under development.
Last week health secretary Matt Hancock announced the UK will buy 60 million more doses of Pfizer/BioNTech's vaccine in a deal that more than doubles the country's supply of the immunisation ahead of a booster programme later this year.
The UK has now ordered a total of 100 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine, one of the three COVID-19 shots being rolled out in the country.
Additional reporting by Reuters