The UK Government’s Vaccines Minister has rubbished reports the eight-week interval in Covid doses is set to be cut in half to speed up the programme.

The Sunday Times reported that officials at Number 10 have asked the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) to hand over advice on reducing the interval to just four weeks.

A source told the newspaper that urgent advice on the pros and cons of reducing the gap between doses to four weeks has been asked for, claiming an announcement “is expected within days”.

But speaking on Trevor Phillips On Sunday on Sky News, UK Vaccines Minister Nadhim Zahawi, said he was “slightly puzzled where that story has come from”

Mr Zahawi dismissed a story in The Sunday Times which suggested the gap between receiving the two doses of the Covid jab could be cut to four weeks.

He said those most severely affected by coronavirus now were those who had not had the vaccination.

He added: “I engage almost on a daily basis with my colleagues at the JCVI...who look at this very closely.

“The real-world data, the clinical data suggests that actually the eight-week interval offers that additional fortification in terms of protection with the two doses, at much better than having the interval shortened any further.

“The Prime Minister announced that now we’ve brought down that interval from 12 weeks to 8 weeks for all adults so anybody who gets their first dose now, they will get their second jab within the eight-week interval . That is the clinical advice and the advice we will follow.”

Office for National Statistics (ONS) data shows that the seven-day average for vaccinations dropped from more than 200,000 in late June to around 100,000 at the beginning of July. In Scotland, a total of 342,968 doses were administered in the week ending June 6, but this dropped by 38% by the week ending July 1, when only 212,140 jags were given.

Mr Zahawi agreed the UK has experienced “a period of slower vaccination rates” - despite Nicola Sturgeon stating this was not the case at her briefing less than two weeks ago.

READ MORE: Covid Scotland: Concerns vaccine rollout 'beginning to stall'

He added: “We’re almost at 87% of all adults have now got their first dose. The majority, round about 96% returned for their second dose - I want to get that to 100% if I can.

"The Office For National Statistics also say that 96% of all adults will very likely take the vaccine.

“The hard yards are to get that 86% to 90-plus per cent vaccinated because actually what we need to make sure is as the virus gets desperate and attempts to infect people to mutate and be able to survive, we should continue to fortify the nation with the vaccination programme.

“That is the way we transition it from pandemic to endemic status and deal with it in the future with booster campaign in September as per the interim advice from the JCVI.”

Speaking on the Andrew Marr Show, Mr Zahawi clarified that the drop off in vaccinations administered from the beginning to the end of July was not down to supply issues - pointing to take-up of the vaccination.