The British government has declared that every adult in the country should get a first coronavirus vaccine shot by July 31, at least a month earlier than its previous target.
This is coming as the government prepares to set out a “cautious” plan to ease the UK’s lockdown.
The previous aim was for all adults to get a jab by September. The new target also calls for everyone 50 and over and those with an underlying health condition to get their first of two vaccine shots by April 15, rather than the previous date of May 1.
The makers of the two vaccines that Britain is using, Pfizer and AstraZeneca, have both experienced supply problems in Europe. But UK Health Secretary Matt Hancock said that “we now think that we have the supplies” to speed up the vaccination campaign.
The early success of Britain’s vaccination effort is welcome good news for a country that has had more than 120,000 coronavirus deaths, the highest toll in Europe. More than 17.5 million people, a third of UK adults, have had at least one vaccine shot since inoculations began on December 8.
Britain is delaying giving second vaccine doses until 12 weeks after the first, rather than three to four weeks, in order to give more people partial protection quickly. The approach has been criticised in some countries — and by Pfizer, which says it does not have any data to support the interval — but it is backed by the UK government’s scientific advisers.
News of the new vaccine targets came as Prime Minister Boris Johnson met yesterday with senior ministers to finalise a “road map” out of the national lockdown. He plans to announce details in Parliament today.