UK – (WARSOOR) – More than half the UK’s adult population has now received a first COVID vaccine dose, the government has said.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson hailed the milestone as a “fantastic achievement” and said: “Let’s keep going!”
He said: “Like the rest of the country I am immensely proud of the progress we have made so far in rolling out vaccinations.
“There is still further to go and I encourage everyone to take up the offer when asked to do so.
“I received my first vaccine yesterday and would like to thank the brilliant NHS staff I met, alongside the teams and volunteers working across the UK to deliver this vital protection.”
Earlier, Health Secretary Matt Hancock had made the announcement, calling the vaccine rollout “a national success story and our way out of this pandemic”.
The midway point of the UK’s stated aim to vaccinate the whole adult population against COVID-19 by the end of July was passed in the last 24 hours.
On Friday, 711,156 doses were administered – a record number that exceeded the previous day’s record.
It means Britain and Northern Ireland are just over five million short of their second target – vaccinating the first nine priority groups by the 15 April. Current progress means that the target will be achieved ahead of time.
The prime minister has set a target of offering a first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine to everyone aged 18 or over in the UK by the 31 July.
He made the pledge after the NHS met its first target of vaccinating everyone in the first four priority groups, some 15 million people, by mid February.
The speed with which that was achieved spurred the government to go further and set additional targets.
There are an estimated 52.7 million people aged 18 and over in the UK, according to the Office for National Statistics.
Vaccine take-up among older age groups has been high, with nearly 95% of those aged 80 and over having had the jab.
However, experts say it may become harder to reach younger age groups as time goes on as vaccine hesitancy is reportedly at much higher levels among those in their 20s and 30s.
There are also reports uptake of the vaccine has been slower among some Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) communities.
What may slow down progress further is the need to provide second doses for everyone who has had a first dose.
Figures indicate that reports predicting an uptick in the speed of the vaccination process this week have been proved correct, with the UK breaking its record for the most coronavirus jabs given out in one day.
A total of 660,276 doses were administered nationwide on Thursday, latest government figures show. That includes 528,260 first jabs and 132,016 second doses.
But Mr Hancock has said it is unlikely that rate of progress will be matched in the coming month, after a need to retest more than one-and-a-half million vaccine doses – as well as delays to stocks arriving from India – will lead to a “tighter” supply of COVID jabs next month.
It is too early to tell whether an EU threat to block jab exports to UK and other countries with high vaccination rates will make a further difference going forward.
Mr Johnson has however said that the UK will meet its target of vaccinating all adults by 31 July.
The UK is someway ahead of the next nearest European country in the list of the countries to vaccinate the highest proportion of their populations, Malta, and has vaccinated more people than any country other than the US.
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