ANNUAL vaccines, removing the need to self-isolate and scrapping free testing could form part of a new government plan for “living with Covid” set to be revealed next week.

Health Secretary Sajid Javid said he is confident the decisions the government will make in its future plan will protect the public from Covid on a visit to the North East yesterday.

Mr Javid visited the Fujifilm Diosynth Biotechnologies site in Billingham, Teesside, two weeks after it was revealed millions of vaccines produced at the facility will be used worldwide.  

The Novavax jab had faced big delays after pushing back submissions for approval, but it was finally approved for use in the UK last week by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA).

And despite initial concerns over the Teesside site’s role in the vaccine production, Mr Javid told The Northern Echo: “Vaccines are a big part of the future of the Fujifilm in Teesside.”

It is still unclear when the Novavax vaccine will be fully approved for use, with Mr Javid saying any decision will be based on the advice of the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI).


Read more: Novavax vaccine will be made at Tees Fujifilm despite concerns

He added: “We will be guided by the JCVI and their independent view on vaccines and we will wait for that.

“It is always good to have choice because different vaccines will have different benefits and it’s good to have that diversity in the supply.”

And Mr Javid didn’t rule out the possibility of providing annual booster doses of the Covid vaccine.

“It’s fair to say Covid is with us for many years, it’s not going anywhere, but we’re clearly in a much better place today than we have been in the past thanks to the decisions we have made around boosters, anti-viral and testing,” he said.

“These are the decisions which have allowed us to be as free as we are today.

“As we set out our plans for living with Covid next week we will certainly say more about how we see the use of vaccines going forward.

The Northern Echo: Health Secretary Sajid Javid at the Fujifilm Diosynth Biotechnologies site in Billingham. Picture: HM GovernmentHealth Secretary Sajid Javid at the Fujifilm Diosynth Biotechnologies site in Billingham. Picture: HM Government

Last week, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the remaining domestic coronavirus restrictions in England – including the legal requirement to self-isolate – could be lifted within weeks.

He is due to present his plan for “living with Covid” when Parliament returns from a short recess on February 21, with an aim of lifting the requirement to self-isolate within days of that.

The current self-isolation regulations, which include self-isolating for 10 days unless you have a negative lateral flow test on days five and six, expire on March 24.

No other UK nations have said they will follow England with dropping self-isolation rules, with Wales stating explicitly it will not change its rules.

Read more: Keir Starmer outlines Labour vision of levelling up & Leamside line

Face masks and Covid passes are no longer required in England and rumours have also circulated that free testing could come to an end.

But the health minister said the Government has made "no decision" on whether free lateral flow and PCR tests will be scrapped, saying the government will “respond to the latest data”.  

He said: “It has to be based on the threat that we see from Covid at the time, and it’s important that we keep that under review constantly. But I’m confident, with the advice we will get, that we will make decisions that will protect us all from Covid-19.”

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