(Photo: Charles McQuillan/Getty Images)

The vaccine booster programme that starts later this year would offer Covid vaccine and a flu jab at the same time using high street pharmacies, The Times reported.

This week, NHS executives will outline a “one in each arm” programme that will run from September, ahead of a winter surge in infections, the newspaper said.

The move is aimed at reducing pressure on general practitioner (GPs) and enable them to deal with a post-pandemic backlog of non-Covid care.

Britain is likely to build a vaccine surplus by autumn, hence, the ministers are keen to administer a booster jab to most of the population.

Meanwhile, plans for the programme will be finalised only after the government receives advice from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI).

Initiation of the programme also depends on the results of a study of more than 700 people, which will check the safety level of administering two vaccines at the same time.

Initial results of the study are due to be released next month.

The programme is likely to use AstraZeneca vaccine tweaked against variants, the British-made Novavax jab and those made by Pfizer and Moderna.

Most Covid jabs are administered in GP-run units and mass vaccination hubs. However, many of these venues, which include football stadiums and conference centres, are due to return to normal use.

About 500 pharmacies in England that do Covid vaccination along with 11,000 other are seen as a significant resource for winter booster campaign.

Sir Simon Stevens, head of NHS England, said, “That campaign will run from early September through to mid-December, and will reinforce our shared immunity wall against winter Covid”.

“When mass vaccination centres wind down, and GPs turn their attention to clearing the backlog of care caused by the pandemic, community pharmacies will be an obvious solution for maintaining immunity to Covid,” said Andrew Lane, who chairs the National Pharmacy Association.

More than 63 million jabs have been given in England. “With every jab given, we are one step closer to our summer freedoms,” Stevens said.

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