COVID vaccines could be available to buy on the high street, it has been reported.
Private healthcare providers and clinics may offer the jabs for more than £100 to those who aren’t prioritised by the NHS.
It comes after the NHS removed millions of Brits from the eligibility list for this autumn's booster campaign, in which jabs are free.
The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) raised the age of those in the vulnerable groups from 50 to 65 years old.
There were 11.6 million people aged between 50 and 64 in the 2021 population consensus of England and Wales.
It leaves older individuals without topped-up protection as the colder months draw in and the virus can spread easier.
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While the privately offered jabs won’t be ready in time for the autumn, it is expected they will be available from next year.
The UK Health and Security Agency (UKHSA) said could be ready by spring, at the earliest.
A UKHSA spokesperson told The Times: “We have spoken to manufacturers we’re in contract with and made it clear we won’t prevent them initiating a private market for Covid-19 vaccines, rather we’d welcome such an innovation in the UK.
“As far as we’re concerned, the ball is in the court of the manufacturers to develop the market with private healthcare providers.”
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Prof Adam Finn, of the University of Bristol and a member of the UK’s JCVI, said Covid jabs should be available commercially.
Speaking in a personal capacity, Finn said: “I think it will be a good idea for vaccines to be made available to those that want them on the private market. I don’t really see any reason why that shouldn’t be happening.
“It’s not perfect because it requires them to pay and some may not have access to the funds. But it does help improve the options that are available.”
However, Prof Danny Altmann, an immunologist at Imperial College London, noted that it will only be those who can afford the jabs who will get prime protection from the disease, according to The Guardian.
He said: “Covid and long Covid vulnerability has been massively skewed to the most socioeconomically deprived – for example, those in jobs least compatible with working from home or taking time off when infected.
"By outsourcing vaccines to private medicine, we exacerbate this divide.”
It comes as a new Covid variant triggers vaccine manufacturers to run more trials.
EG.5, nicknamed "Eris," has taken over as the dominant variant in the US and accounts for 17 per cent of cases, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Protection (CDC).
It is the second most prevalent strain in the UK, accounting for 14.6 per cent of cases, according to the UKHSA.
Infections from Fornax, officially known as FL 1.5.1, are also rising.
Eris has spread to 51 countries and has been named as a “variant of interest” by the World Health Organization (WHO), indicating that it should be more closely watched than others because of mutations that might make it more contagious or severe.
Moderna said on Thursday an initial study data showed its updated Covid jab to be effective against the Eris and Fornax subvariants.
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The company expects the updated shot to be available, pending approval from health regulators in Europe and the US in the coming weeks for autumn jabbing campaigns.
Pfizer reported that its updated Covid shot showed neutralising activity against the Eris subvariant in a study conducted on mice.
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