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UK plans annual vaccinations against new Covid variants

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London, Feb 8 (IANS) The UK is planning a mass campaign of booster vaccines against new variants of Covid-19 as early as the autumn, in what Vaccine Minister Nadhim Zahawi suggested would become an annual effort to prevent Covid-19 as the virus keeps mutating.

The government aims to copy the flu prevention programme as a model for control of new Covid-19 variants.

The government was expecting annual inoculations to take place every autumn in much the same way as flu’s prevention, Zahawi told the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show.

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In a statement the NHS said it had “mobilised efficiently and speedily to ensure that new vaccines and treatments are rolled out as they become available.”

NHS leaders believe that the timing of the extra shots means they could be delivered alongside the annual seasonal flu vaccinations long offered to over-65s, and for which eligibility was last year extended to all over-50s, the Financial Times reported on Monday.

Zahawi said that more public sector workers — including teachers — would get their jab once the initial priority groups had their injections.

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The government hopes to have given first jabs to all over-70s, healthcare workers and the most vulnerable by mid-February.

By Saturday just over 12 million had been inoculated as the NHS continued one of the world’s most successful rollouts of Covid vaccines. Almost 1,000 jabs were given per minute on Saturday, Zahawi said.

He also said the government had no plans for a vaccine passport despite reports last week, telling Times Radio that a domestic vaccine passport would be “discriminatory” because the government did not mandate inoculation.

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If other countries demanded proof of vaccination British travellers could ask their GPs for their record as proof they have had the jab, Zahawi said.

–IANS

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