- Unlike flu jabs, Covid jabs have only been offered to those eligible on the NHS
- Pharmadoctor aims to launch the service across the UK by April ‘at the latest’
Chemists will start offering Covid vaccines privately, with Brits able to buy them for as little as £45 within weeks.
Throughout the pandemic, jabs have only been available on the NHS.
But under a huge shake-up to the scheme, high street pharmacies will be allowed to sell them by April 1 at the latest.
Brits will be able to start booking their appointments from this weekend, MailOnline understands.
Ministers have faced pressure to fast-track the sale of Covid vaccines privately ever since the threat of the virus began to fade.
Supplies will be of the Novavax vaccine, as opposed to ones made by AstraZeneca , Pfizer and Moderna. Although Pharmadoctor said it will expand its catalogue ‘as more vaccines become licensed for the private market’
Uptake for the autumn booster roll-out stood at around 68.8 per cent (pictured). As of December 2023 7.8million people had received a jab under the programme
During the height of the pandemic, everyone was eligible to get jabbed against the virus.
Officials were desperate to build-up immunity in the population, effectively creating a ‘wall’ that kept Covid at bay and allowed the country to embark on post-lockdown life.
Yet over the past few autumn and spring booster roll-outs, jabs have been restricted to at-risk Brits, such as care home residents, over-65s and frontline NHS workers.
Experts say offering Covid vaccines privately — like what happens with the flu every winter — is a no-brainer.
Even one of the Government’s own vaccine advisory panel said it was a ‘good idea’ ahead of the autumn 2023 roll-out.
The change was announced today by Pharmadoctor, a wholesaler which works with more than 8,000 pharmacies across the UK.
A spokesperson also told trade publication Chemist and Druggist: ‘For the first-time ever, members of the public will be able to pop into their local independent pharmacy to get a private Covid jab for as little as £45.’
On its website, Pharmadoctor adds: ‘Book your appointment now to beat the rush.’
Anyone over the age of 12 will be able to buy the jab, MailOnline understands.
Although Pharmadoctor said it will expand its catalogue ‘as more vaccines become licensed for the private market’.
Moderna has already publicly said it is seeking to offer its jab privately. Pfizer is said to be exploring its options, too.
Novavax’s jab was never dished out as part of the UK’s NHS scheme, despite being approved by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), which polices the safety of drugs used in Britain, in February 2022.
But during the 2022/23 autumn booster campaign it could be used in ‘exceptional circumstances’ as a booster dose for adults when no alternative UK-approved Covid vaccine was available.
It works in a more traditional fashion, as opposed to new-era mRNA jabs like that of Pfizer’s.
Pharmaceutical companies are not prohibited from taking Covid jabs to the private market, according to the Department for Health and Social Care.
A spokesperson said: ‘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.
‘The Government is supportive of the emergence of a private market for Covid vaccines and is engaging with relevant parties on this.’
A 2022 study led by academics at Imperial College London suggests almost 20million lives were saved by Covid vaccines in the first year since countries began rolling out the jabs, the majority in wealthy nations
Pharmadoctor’s digital director Joaquim Pereira said it expected ‘thousands’ to sign up to deliver the new service. It comes as Superdrug revealed in August it was ‘interested’ in selling Covid jabs after health officials gave the green light for private sales
In December 2022 Novavax revealed it would repay the UK government $112.5million following its decision not to exercise an option in its contract to buy additional vaccine doses.
Its agreement with the UK initially called for 1million doses and the possibility of an additional 15million, contingent on government approval.
It is thought Novavax’s jab cost around £20 per dose when bought by the Government.
Under the Pharmadoctor service, pharmacies offering private jabs will be listed on a directory allowing patients ‘to find their nearest pharmacy offering the service’, book an appointment and start a pre-consultation online.
It is also incentivizing pharmacies to ‘sign-up early’ by offering its package at half-price until March 31 — down from £499 to £249 plus VAT.
Pharmadoctor’s digital director Joaquim Pereira said it expected ‘thousands’ to sign up to deliver the new service.
It comes as Superdrug revealed in August it was ‘interested’ in selling Covid jabs after health officials gave the green light for private sales.
Uptake for the autumn booster roll-out stood at around 68.8 per cent.
But millions have still never even had one jab.
Health officials, however, remain concerned over the spread of the virus after an uptick in cases in January.
Latest NHS figures released today revealed there were an average of 3,982 patients in hospital with Covid each day last week — up from 3,895 each day the week before.
Demand for NHS services also remains high, with 96 per cent of adult beds occupied last week, the highest so far this winter.
In the week ending January 12, there were 388 deaths involving Covid in England and Wales and 277 deaths due to Covid, official data also shows.
But the most deaths reported on a single day at the height of the pandemic was on January 19 2021, when 1,490 fatalities were logged.
In recent months the Government has also handed pharmacies more powers in a bid to ease pressures on the NHS and free up GPs to deal with more serious cases.
Ministers have also been faced with fresh calls for pharmacies to become the ‘first port of call’ for vaccination programmes.
However, in parts of the country, chemists are already rammed as hundreds have been forced to close.
Pharmacy bodies blame NHS underfunding, staff shortages and a failing GP service.
Just 11,414 community pharmacies offering key NHS services remain — the lowest level since records began in 2015/16. Almost 400 shut their doors in 2022/23 alone, statistics show.
Real-time NHS England data shows the count as of December 31, 2023 may be as little as 10,273.
Industry leaders have labelled the figures ‘alarming’ and warned patients will be forced into making longer journeys for vital treatment or ‘miss out all together’.