Britain has reached a COVID-19 vaccination milestone with more than half of all adults having had at least one injection, Health Secretary Matt Hancock said on Saturday, making it the first major economy of the world to achieve this level of innoculation.
The vaccine rollout in Britain, which has overtaken those in the European Union and the United States, means the country is on track to ease lockdown measures and reopen the economy according to its plan, a Hancock said.
“The immunization program is our way out of the pandemic,” Hancock told Sky News on Saturday. Official data showed that 26.9 million had received a first dose of the vaccine, compared to 26.3 million the day before.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who received the AstraZeneca vaccine on Friday, tweeted “Let’s continue” after the news that half of all adults had received a first vaccine.
Yet concerns were also growing about a new wave of infections in mainland Europe as cases rose in countries like Germany and France. A government-advising scientist warned on Saturday that a vacation abroad was “extremely unlikely” for most Britons this summer due to the risk of importing new variants of COVID-19.
When asked if infection rates elsewhere in Europe concerned him, Hancock said Britain needs to remain vigilant but sees no threat to plans to gradually reopen stores, pubs and restaurants from April 12. make progress as outlined in the roadmap, ”Hancock said.
The rollout of vaccination in Britain, using the AstraZeneca and Pfizer jabs, is one of the fastest in the world. Israel leads the world in terms of the proportion of its population vaccinated, followed by the United Arab Emirates, Chile, and then the United Kingdom.
By comparison, 23% of the US population has received at least one dose of a vaccine and less than a tenth of the EU population has been vaccinated.
ON THE TRACK OF TARGETS
The UK government has said it aims to give at least one chance to all people over 50 by mid-April and all adults by the end of July, goals which Hancock said would be achieved.
Famous London landmarks like Westminister Abbey and the Science Museum as well as local mosques and football stadiums have hosted vaccination clinics.
The state-run health service also said 2.1 million people, or 4% of the population, had received a second dose, and nearly 95% of people over the age of 60 had been vaccinated.
The EU is trying to get its vaccination program back on track after at least 13 countries temporarily suspended use of the AstraZeneca vaccine last week over safety concerns.
The European Medicines Agency has since said the benefits of protecting people outweigh the potential risks of the vaccine, but damage to AstraZeneca’s reputation could further slow the pace of deployment.
The fight to secure vaccine supplies has left Britain and the EU at odds over vaccine exports. The EU threatened to ban shipments to Britain on Wednesday.
In April, Britain warned its deployment would slow due to a supply shortage caused by a delayed shipment from India and the need to retest a batch of vaccine.