The UK medicines regulator has approved the use of a third dose of both the Pfizer and AstraZeneca Covid vaccines ahead of an expected announcement about booster jabs.

Both vaccines have been approved for the extra dose on an emergency use basis, the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) announced.

NHS England confirmed last week that they were awaiting final JCVI advice on when the programme will start and who exactly will be prioritised, and a statement is expected from the committee imminently.

Dr June Raine, MHRA chief executive said: ‘We are committed to getting safe and effective Covid-19 vaccines to the UK public.

‘This means ensuring that existing Covid-19 vaccines can continue to be used in the most effective way possible.’

She added: ‘We know that a person’s immunity may decline over time after their first vaccine course.

‘I am pleased to confirm that the Covid-19 vaccines made by Pfizer and AstraZeneca can be used as safe and effective booster doses. This is an important regulatory change as it gives further options for the vaccination programme, which has saved thousands of lives so far.’

Dr Raine said it would be for the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation to advise on whether booster jabs should be given and if so which vaccines should be used.

‘We have in place a comprehensive safety surveillance strategy for monitoring the safety of all UK-approved COVID-19 vaccines and this surveillance will include booster jabs.’

Earlier this month,  the JCVI recommended a select group of people who are considered severely immunosuppressed should be offered a third dose — or ‘top up’— of the Covid vaccine separate from the national booster programme.

A version of this story first appeared on our sister website, Pulse.