Pharmacies will start offering Covid vaccines privately and Brits will be able to buy them for as little as £45 within weeks.
During the pandemic, jabs were only available on the NHS.
But under a major shake-up of the scheme, high street pharmacies will start selling them by April 1 at the latest.
Britons will be able to start booking appointments from this weekend, MailOnline understands.
Experts have called for Covid vaccines to be sold privately since the threat of the virus began to fade.
The supplies will be of the Novavax vaccine, unlike those manufactured by AstraZeneca, Pfizer and Moderna. Although Pharmadoctor stated that it will expand its catalog ‘as more vaccines are authorized for the private market’
Acceptance of the autumn booster rollout stood at around 68.8 percent (pictured). As of December 2023, 7.8 million people had received a shot under the program.
During the height of the pandemic, everyone was eligible to receive the virus vaccine.
Officials were desperate to build immunity in the population, effectively creating a “wall” that would keep Covid at bay and allow the country to embark on post-lockdown life.
However, during the latest autumn and spring booster rollouts, vaccines have been restricted to at-risk Britons such as care home residents, the over-65s and frontline NHS workers.
Experts say offering Covid vaccines privately, as happens with the flu every winter, is a no-brainer. Even one of the Government’s own vaccine advisory panel members said it was a “good idea” ahead of its rollout in autumn 2023.
The change was announced today by Pharmadoctor, a clinical services provider working with over 8,000 pharmacies across the UK.
A spokesperson also told the trade publication. Chemist and apothecary: “For the first time, the public will be able to go to their local independent pharmacy to receive a private Covid jab for just £45.”
On its website, Pharmadoctor adds: “Book your appointment now to avoid the rush.”
Anyone over 12 years of age will be able to purchase the vaccine, MailOnline understands.
The supplies will be of the Novavax vaccine, unlike those manufactured by AstraZeneca, Pfizer and Moderna.
Pharmadoctor said it will expand its catalog “as more vaccines are authorized for the private market.”
Moderna has already said publicly that it is looking to offer its vaccine privately. Pfizer is also said to be exploring its options.
Ministers paid around £20 per dose to Pfizer during the height of the pandemic for its jabs. But in August, Moderna said it expects to quadruple its own price when the vaccines are offered privately.
The Novavax vaccine, which is believed to cost a similar amount per dose under an agreement with the UK government, was never distributed as part of the UK’s NHS plan.
This was despite it being approved by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), which oversees the safety of medicines used in Britain, in February 2022.
But during the autumn 2022/23 booster campaign, it could be used in “exceptional circumstances” as a booster dose for adults when an alternative Covid vaccine approved in the UK is not available.
It works in a more traditional way, unlike new-age mRNA shots like Pfizer’s.
According to the Department of Health and Social Care, pharmaceutical companies are not prohibited from bringing Covid jabs to the private market.
Health Minister Maria Caulfield said in parliament last week: “As with many other vaccines, manufacturers and suppliers can create a private market alongside NHS supply where they consider it viable and appropriate.”
“The Government supports the emergence of a private market for Covid vaccines and is engaging with relevant parties in this regard.”
A 2022 study led by academics at Imperial College London suggests that Covid vaccines saved almost 20 million lives in the first year since countries began rolling out the shots, mostly in wealthy nations.
Pharmadoctor digital director Joaquim Pereira said he expected “thousands” to sign up to provide the new service. It comes as Superdrug revealed in August it was “interested” in selling Covid jabs after health officials gave the green light to private sales.
In December 2022, Novavax revealed it would reimburse the UK government around £100 million following its decision not to exercise an option in its contract to purchase additional vaccine doses.
Its deal with the U.K. initially called for 60 million doses but was scaled back.
Under the Pharmadoctor service, pharmacies offering private injections will appear in a directory that will allow patients to “find the nearest pharmacy offering the service”, book an appointment and start a pre-consultation online.
It is also encouraging pharmacies to “register early” by offering its package at half price until March 31 (from £499 to £249 plus VAT).
Pharmadoctor digital director Joaquim Pereira said he expected “thousands” to sign up to provide the new service.
It comes as Superdrug revealed in August it was “interested” in selling Covid jabs after health officials gave the green light to private sales.
A spokesperson for the pharmacy chain told MailOnline today that it was “not in talks with Pharmadoctor” about its own private vaccination campaign.
They added: ‘Superdrug is speaking directly to providers about the possibility of offering a private Covid vaccination service this year.
“These conversations include how to reduce operational challenges to support sustainability and reduce the risk of waste and reduction in the provision of a private Covid vaccination service.”
Meanwhile, a Boots spokesperson said: “We would like to offer private Covid vaccinations and are investigating how this might be possible.”
“We already offer a range of vaccines for both private customers and the NHS.”
Acceptance of the autumn booster rollout stood at around 68.8 percent.
But millions of people still haven’t even received a single hit.
However, health officials remain concerned about the spread of the virus after a spike in cases in January attributed to a super-infectious variant called Juno.
The latest NHS figures published today showed there were an average of 3,982 patients hospitalized 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 figure so far this winter.
In recent months, the Government has also given 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 faced fresh calls for pharmacies to become the “first port of call” for vaccination programmes.
However, in some parts of the country, pharmacies are already under attack and hundreds have been forced to close.
Pharmaceutical bodies blame underfunding of the NHS, staff shortages and a poor GP service.
Only 11,414 community pharmacies remain offering key NHS services, the lowest level since records began in 2015/16. According to statistics, almost 400 closed their doors in 2022/23 alone.
Real-time data from NHS England shows the count as of December 31, 2023 may be as few as 10,273.
Industry leaders have called the figures “alarming” and warned patients will be forced to make longer journeys to receive vital treatment or “miss out entirely”.