Britain speeds up vaccinations

Over 10 million people were given first shot

Britain has given a first dose of a coronavirus vaccine to more than 10 million people so far and if the current rate continues, the country will be on track to give a dose to the 15 million people in the top four priority groups by mid-February, British media reported.

Official figures showed that 374,756 people received a jab on Tuesday, taking the headline total to just over the milestone at 10.02 million, less than two months since the programme began. With such a pace the remaining five priority groups – another 17 million people – will get a shot in early April, just after Easter at the point where the need for second jabs begins.

PM Boris Johnson praised NHS staff for delivering the vaccine, describing the programme as “the most colossal in the history of our National Health Service”. Nearly 90% of all over-75-year-olds in England have already received a jab, the prime minister added. Meanwhile public health experts called on ministers to target future vaccinations in hotspots where the disease is threatening to run out of control.

The PM also promised he would say “a bit more” in mid-February about future phases of the vaccination programme, including the second wave covering 18 to 49-year-olds without serious medical conditions. Police, teachers and other key workers have been pressing for priority in the next wave, although the government has refused to give any assurances or timetables.

Earlier Health Secretary Matt Hancock warned there was not enough Pfizer or AstraZeneca vaccine available to open vaccination centres for 24 hours a day despite promises from Johnson to go “to 24/7 as soon as we can” last month. “The rate limiting factor is supply,” the minister said.

The UK has offered a first dose of a Covid-19 vaccine to about 15% of its population, the largest proportion of any major economy and putting the country in third place worldwide behind Israel (58%) and the United Arab Emirates (38%). Those involved in the programme say refusal rates in the UK have been relatively low.

More on this subject: Coronavirus

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