The change comes into force after a consultation on the plans, which include giving Britain’s medical regulator the ability to grant temporary authorisation for any coronavirus vaccine that meets safety and quality standards but before it has received a full licence.

The new rules also allow more healthcare workers to give COVID-19 and flu vaccines.

“These legal changes will help us in doing everything we can to make sure we are ready to roll out a safe and effective COVID-19 vaccine as soon as it has passed clinical trials and undergone rigorous checks by the regulator,” health minister Matt Hancock said.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Monday there were some hopeful signs that a vaccine would be secured for COVID-19 but he warned that the country must be realistic because it could not be taken for granted.

A report on Thursday said the National Health Service (NHS) was in talks with the British Medical Association (BMA) which represents doctors, and others around mobilising the rollout of a potential COVID-19 vaccine from December, estimating there was around a 50% chance of a vaccine being available at that time.

Asked about the report, a spokesman for the health ministry said there were no certainties in the development, production or timing of a vaccine.

“We are working at pace for the delivery of any potential COVID-19 vaccination programme as quickly as possible, but the scale of what is rolled out and when will depend on a safe, effective vaccine being available,” he said.