Half of all adults in Britain have now received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, making the country the first major economy in the world to take this step, Health Minister Matt Hancock said on Saturday.
Britain hit that figure after administering a record 660,276 shots a day earlier, Hancock said. Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who was vaccinated against AstraZeneca on Friday, tweeted “Let’s continue”.
Israel is the leader in vaccinating its people, followed by the United Arab Emirates, Chile, and then the United Kingdom – and investors are closely watching economies showing the first signs of recovery.
The UK government has announced plans to give at least one injection to everyone over 50 by mid-April and to all adults by the end of July. During that time, he plans to ease lockdown restrictions as shops, pubs and restaurants prepare to reopen next month.
“The vaccine is a national achievement and our way out of this pandemic,” Hancock said.
In comparison, over 20% of the US population received at least one dose and less than a tenth of the EU population.
The European Union – where there are growing concerns about a new wave of infections – is pushing to get vaccines back on track after at least 13 countries temporarily suspend use of the AstraZeneca vaccine last week for security reasons.
The European Medicines Agency has since said that the benefits of protecting people from coronavirus-related death or hospitalization outweighed the possible risks of the vaccine.
Led by its state-run health service, Britain’s rapid rollout of AstraZeneca and Pfizer injections is expected to slow in April, due to a shipping delay and the need to retest a batch of vaccines.
The vaccination race has left Britain and the European Union at odds over vaccine exports. The EU threatened on Wednesday to ban vaccine exports to Britain, which imports Pfizer’s vaccine from Europe.
(Except for the title, this story was not edited by NDTV staff and is posted from a syndicated feed.)