Booster jabs will reportedly be extended to the under-50s in a bid to fight Covid ahead of the winter.
The government is expected to announce on Monday that people in the younger age groups can be given the booster dose of the Covid vaccine.
Currently the NHS allows anybody aged 50 and over, or people aged over 16 with certain health conditions, to get a booster dose six months after their second shot.
Frontline health and social care workers can also book a third dose of the vaccine.
Ministers have not formally set out when this will change and when those aged in the younger groups will be eligible to take another dose of a Covid vaccine.
The Times reports that the rollout is set to be extended to those in their late 40s initially before moving to the lower age groups.
The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) is expected to give its approval to extending the rollout to under-50s on Monday, but exact details of the age groups are yet to be confirmed.
Professor David Strain of the University of Exeter said: “We are seeing hospitalisations in people in their 40s and 50s who are double vaccinated.
“When the 40 and 50-year-olds hit the six-month mark, bearing in mind that the Delta and the AY.4.2 strains are more infectious then this could mean greater hospitalisations of these age groups even if they are double vaccinated.
“If it’s a case of offering the booster to anyone who wants it, then that seems to make sense . . . because giving it to people who want the booster is easier than forcing people to have it who don’t.”
Professor Neil Ferguson, a scientific adviser to the government, told Radio 4’s Today programme at the weekend: “I see no reason why we shouldn’t be rolling them out to younger age groups once we’ve got through the priority groups: over-50s and the clinically vulnerable.
“Our modelling suggests that, yes, it could make quite a big difference to driving transmission down to low levels.”
It comes amid soaring numbers of new Covid cases that have remained in the tens of thousands of infections for weeks.
On Sunday there were 36,517 new cases recorded as well as 63 deaths.
Meanwhile, more than 50.5 million people have been given a single dose of the vaccine and more than 46 million people have been fully vaccinated – after receiving two doses.
Latest government figures show that more than 12.6 million people have already received a third – booster – shot of the vaccine.