Covid vaccines may be sold on the high street like the flu jab, top pharmacies claim

Covid vaccines could be sold by high street retailers in the coming months, with two staples of British pharmacy confirming that they are working on the idea, with government backing.

Boots and Superdrug told The Times that they are assessing various ways of selling Covid jabs, in a similar way that the flu jab is sold. To date Covid vaccines have only been available from the NHS.

The revelations come against the backdrop of rising Covid cases. According to the latest data from the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA), around one in 24 people in mid-December were likely to have tested positive in England and Wales.

Alongside the uptick in cases, some are concerned about the reduced uptake of the jab this winter. NHS-only access to Covid vaccines, it has been mooted, is partly to blame for less than 70 per cent of over-65s in England having it this festive season.

The flu jab currently operates on a different system, with pharmacies and private clinics able to sell the vaccine for between £10 and £20.

Health minister Maria Caulfield said last week that the government backed the private sale of Covid vaccines and that it was in dialogue with the relevant parties.

Responding to a parliamentary question about the issue, she said: “Currently Covid-19 vaccines are not available privately but 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.”

A spokesman for Superdrug told The Times: “Superdrug is in discussions with suppliers about potentially offering a private Covid vaccination service in 2024. Ensuring healthcare is as accessible as possible for people is our priority and we’re interested in offering a private Covid vaccination.”

A Boots spokesperson said: “We would like to offer private Covid vaccinations and we are looking into how this might be possible. We already offer a range of vaccinations, including flu vaccinations for both private and NHS customers.”

Moderna and Pfizer, two of the largest producers of the jab, are reported to be open to providing their product to private operators.

The potential price of a Covid vaccine is still unknown, but the chief executive of Moderna Stéphane Bancel said earlier in 2023 that his company was planning to sell its vaccines for $130, which is around £100.

At present, those eligible for the seasonal Covid vaccines are those aged 65 and over, as well as people at increased risk and frontline health or social workers.

Philippa Harvey, the director of the Covid vaccine unit at UKHSA, said: “The COVID-19 vaccine is not currently available to buy privately in the UK, but there is no blanket restriction on private sales of licensed vaccines.

“UKHSA will continue to work with manufacturers to ensure there is sufficient vaccine supply available to the NHS programme.”

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