The Department for Health and Social Care has signed a deal to buy 35 million more doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech coronavirus vaccine, it has announced.
The drugs will be delivered from the second half of next year as the Vaccine Taskforce works to “future-proof the country from the threat of Covid-19”, DHSC said.
The announcement comes amid fears over rising coronavirus rates. Deaths from the virus now average more than 100 a day, with 948 new hospitalisations on 17 August, the latest statistics show. Cases on that date were up by 13% compared to the previous week.
The figures come despite progress with the vaccine rollout, which has seen 47.7 million people – 88.7% of adults – receive the first dose of the vaccine so far, and 41.8 million – 76.9% of adults – receive their second.
DHSC said the task force is putting in place “robust plans for ensuring the country remains ahead of the virus for years to come and for any future booster programmes, as well as working to make the UK a global centre of excellence for the next generation of vaccines”.
DHSC is preparing for a booster programme this year to protect those most vulnerable to Covid-19, which will be based on advice that the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation will publish next month.
The deal with Pfizer – details of which DHSC said would be published “in due course” – is one of several contracts the government has with vaccine manufacturers.
Health secretary Sajid Javid said: “The UK’s phenomenal vaccination programme is providing tens of millions of people with protection from Covid-19, saving 95,200 lives and preventing 82,100 hospitalisations in the over-65s in England alone.
“While we continue to build this wall of defence from Covid-19, it’s also vital we do everything we can to protect the country for the future too – whether that’s from the virus as we know it or new variants.”
He said the UK will also be donating 100 million vaccine doses to other countries over the next year in an effort to support global recovery from the pandemic.