LONDON (Reuters) – Britain has reached a milestone in vaccination against COVID-19 with more than half of all adults receiving at least one injection, Health Secretary Matt Hancock said on Saturday, making it in the first major economy in the world to reach that level of inoculation.
Britain’s launch of the vaccine, which has been ahead of those in the European Union and the United States, means the country is on track to ease lockdown measures and reopen the economy in accordance with its plan, Hancock said.
“The vaccination program is our route out of the pandemic,” Hancock told Sky News on Saturday. Official data showed that 26.9 million had received a first dose of vaccine, up from 26.3 million the day before.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who received the AstraZeneca vaccine on Friday, tweeted “Let’s move on” after announcing that half of all adults had received a first injection.
However, concerns were also growing about a new wave of infections in continental Europe as cases rise in countries like Germany and France. A scientist advising the government on Saturday warned that foreign holidays were “extremely unlikely” for most Britons this summer due to the risk of importing new variants of COVID-19.
When asked if infection rates in other parts of Europe concerned him, Hancock said Britain needed to be vigilant, but saw no threat to plans to gradually reopen shops, pubs and restaurants from April 12. . “There are no signs that we can’t do it. progress as stated in the roadmap, ”said Hancock.
The deployment of vaccination in Britain, using AstraZeneca and Pfizer jabs, is one of the fastest in the world. Israel leads the world in terms of the proportion of its population that has been 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 one-tenth of the EU population has been vaccinated.
ON TARGET TRACK
The British government has said it aims to give everyone over the age of 50 at least one chance by mid-April and all adults by the end of July, goals that Hancock said would be met.
Famous London landmarks like Westminister Abbey and the Science Museum, as well as local mosques and football stadiums, have hosted vaccination clinics.
The state health service also said 2.1 million people, or 4% of the population, have received a second dose and nearly 95% of people over 60 have been vaccinated.
Meanwhile, the EU is trying to get its vaccine program back on track after at least 13 countries temporarily suspended use of the AstraZeneca injection last week over safety concerns.
Since then, the European Medicines Agency has said that the benefits of protecting people outweigh the potential risks of the vaccine, but damage to the reputation of the AstraZeneca vaccine could further slow the pace of implementation.
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 that its implementation will slow down due to a supply shortage caused by a delayed shipment from India and the need to retest a batch of vaccines.
Reporting by Sarah Young; Edited by Andrew Heavens and David Holmes