Ministers in the UK have secured new contracts to buy 114m more Covid-19 vaccines for the next two years.
The deals, for 2022 and 2023, were accelerated after the emergence of the Omicron coronavirus variant, officials said. Under the agreements, the UK will buy 54m more doses from Pfizer/BioNTech and 60m more doses from Moderna.
These purchases are in addition to the 35m extra Pfizer/BioNTech doses ordered in August for delivery in the second half of 2022, officials said. The UK is also still expecting 60m Novavax and 7.5m GSK/Sanofi doses in 2022.
Sajid Javid, the health secretary, said the new deals would “future proof” the UK’s vaccine programme and ensure protection for “even more people in the years ahead”.
There remains uncertainty about further health programmes. Some experts have warned that Covid-19 will have to be kept at bay by repeated vaccine campaigns, while others have said it is too early to tell whether annual vaccine boosters will be needed.
Officials at the Department of Health and Social Care said the new contracts included access to modified vaccines if needed to combat Omicron and future variants of concern.
The government said it had enough supplies of both Moderna and Pfizer/BioNTech doses for the current expansion of the booster programme.
Ministers said this week that all adults in the UK would be offered a booster shot before the end of January, amid growing concerns about the Omicron variant. Vaccination experts advising the government have expressed preference for the mRNA vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna.
Trial data suggest booster doses are generally well tolerated and provide a substantial increase in vaccine-induced immune responses, in particular, and that mRNA vaccines provide a strong booster effect.
Javid said: “These new deals will future proof the Great British vaccination effort, which has so far delivered more than 115 million first, second and booster jabs across the UK, and will ensure we can protect even more people in the years ahead.
“This is a national mission, and our best weapon to deal with this virus and its variants is to get jabs in arms. So when you are called forward, get the jab and get boosted.”