UK reaches milestone of offering first Covid vaccinations to 15m people

PM also announces that four top priority groups in England have now been offered jabs

The government has reached its target of offering at least first vaccinations to the four groups of people in England seen as most vulnerable to coronavirus by mid-February, it has announced.

In a video message sent out via social media, Boris Johnson said Sunday marked “a significant milestone in the United Kingdom’s national vaccination programme”, with a total of 15m first injections offered across Britain.

He added: “In England, I can now tell you, we have offered jabs to everyone in the first four priority groups, the people most likely to be severely ill from coronavirus, hitting the target that we set ourselves.”

Further details would be announced on Monday, the prime minister said, saying that that in the response to coronavirus there would still “undoubtedly be bumps in the road”.

It remains unclear whether the prime minister’s announcement formally marks the completion of the target to offer first injections to the top four groups by 15 February, as the government’s planning documents feature that target as part of what is described as a UK plan for vaccine uptake.

However, the distribution of vaccines is devolved, as part of health policy, and No 10 officials say this meant the target was set for England only.

Wales announced on Saturday it had reached its target of offering first injections to the top four groups, the first UK nation to do so.

The government has set a series of targets for offering vaccinations to a series of groups, with the priority order set out by the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation.

The top four priority groups, in order, were older care home residents and relevant care staff; people aged 80-plus and frontline health and care staff; those aged 75 and over; and those aged 70 and over and people who are clinically extremely vulnerable.

The initial target was to offer first injections to care home residents and staff by the end of January, which was very nearly met, barring about 17,000 people. The next target was to complete the four groups by 15 February.

Ministers have subsequently said that the aim was to complete all nine of the top priority groups, which comprise phase 1 of the vaccination programme, by early May.

The next five groups are: those aged 65 and over; those aged 16-65 with conditions that make them vulnerable; and then, in turn, people aged 60 and over, 55 and over, and 50 and over.

The vaccines minister, Nadhim Zahawi, announced the milestone about half an hour before Johnson, tweeting: “15,000,000! Amazing team. We will not rest till we offer the vaccine to the whole of phase 1, the 1-9 categories of the most vulnerable and all over-50s by end April and then all adults.”

While no formal target has been set, the aim is to offer vaccinations to all adults by the autumn – although there may then need to be a third round of “booster” injections to combat vaccine resistance in new variants of Covid.

Ministers have said that so far, vaccine take-up in people aged 75 and over, and those in care homes, has been more than 90%.

Matt Hancock, the health secretary, said: “I’m so proud of the team – we’ve hit this fantastic milestone in our battle against Covid-19. In less than 10 weeks we’ve jabbed over 15 million people across the UK. That’s one in every four adults now starting to receive protection from this dreadful disease.

“This accomplishment is thanks to the incredible efforts of frontline NHS workers, vaccine volunteers, the armed forces and all those working in local and central government. The vaccine rollout shows what our country can achieve working together.”


Peter Walker Political correspondent

The GuardianTramp

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