Residents in Lancashire are being offered no public health advice about whether they should consider paying for a Covid vaccine if they are not among the few groups now eligible for a free shot on the NHS.

The current spring booster season, about to draw to a close, has been the first point during the pandemic Covid jabs have been made available for people to buy privately.

While the first booster vaccine – in late 2021 – was offered to all over-16s, eligibility for twice-yearly top-ups has grown ever more limited.

The present spring booster is open only to over-75s, care home residents and those with weakened immune systems.  It does not extend to frontline health and care workers, nor household carers, as per last autumn’s booster.

Waning immunity - coupled with the near-continual emergence of new variants - is thought to be fuelling regular waves of Covid infection that still exist, but which now receive little public attention.

Limited testing data now suggests once such wave is just beginning - at the height of summer.

Although the acute phase of a Covid infection is much less serious for most people than in the pre-vaccine era, it has still been listed as one of the causes of death in 4,443 people so far this year.

And according to the Office for National Statistics, two million in the UK suffer from Long Covid symptoms. Studies have also shown an increased risk of heart attack and stroke after Covid infection.

Private Covid vaccines were finally introduced in the UK earlier this year, enabling those not being offered an NHS jab to pay for one at a chemist – like the annual flu shot. Prices range loosely from £50 to £100.

But the three Lancashire authorities responsible for public health, along with local and national NHS bodies, are not offering advice on the the purchase of a private Covid jab.

Dr. Sakthi Karunanithi, Lancashire's public health director, said: "The spring booster for Covid-19 is only offered for free to those who are more likely to get seriously ill with the virus. Although it is not actively promoted or recommended for other groups, it may be available in some pharmacies, just like the flu vaccine, so people can make a personal choice.”

Blackburn with Darwen Council said it was a matter for the government’s Department for Health while Blackpool Council referred the enquiry to Lancashire and South Cumbria Integrated Care Board (ICB).

But the ICB advised its role was to promote eligible NHS vaccines – so it was not in a position to comment on privately available jabs.

The DHSC failed to respond to requests for a comment.

NHS North West is continuing to promoter spring Covid boosters for those eligible before June 30.

Dr Linda Charles Ozuzu, senior responsible officer for the Covid-19 vaccination programme, said: "Covid-19 can still be dangerous for those most vulnerable, so it is vital that people come forward for a top up jab if eligible.

"I’d particularly like to remind younger people who have a weakened immune system because of a health condition or medication that they are eligible for the spring vaccine and urge them to come forward before the offer finishes at the end of this month.”