The British Government declared on Sunday that it plans to send the first dose of coronavirus vaccine to every adult in the country by July 31, a month earlier than its previous goal.
The new goal also aims to have a vaccine shot by April 15 for those over 50 or with an underlying health problem, rather than the previous target of May 1.
Pfizer and AstraZeneca, the producers of the two vaccines that Britain is using, have also faced production issues in Europe. But UK Secretary of Health Matt Hancock, who announced the new targets, said “we now think that we have the supplies” to step up the drive for vaccination.
The early success of the vaccine program in Britain is welcome good news for a country that has had more than 120,000 deaths from coronavirus, Europe’s highest toll. Since inoculations began on 8 December, more than 17.2 million people, almost a third of adults in the world, have received the first of two doses of the vaccine.
In order to give as many people as possible partial safety quickly, Britain is delaying providing second doses of the vaccine until 12 weeks after the first. In several countries, the strategy has been criticised, and by Pfizer, who claims it does not have any evidence to justify the delay, but is endorsed by the scientific advisors of the UK government.
As Prime Minister Boris Johnson met with senior ministers on Sunday to finalize a ‘road map’ out of the national lockdown, a move he is to reveal on Monday, news of the revised vaccine targets came as Prime Minister Boris Johnson met with senior ministers on Sunday to finalize a ‘road map’ out of the national lockdown. While food tales, supermarkets and takeout food venues are still open, bars, restaurants, gyms, colleges, hair salons and other nonessential shops have been closed.
The government has stressed that economic and social reopenings would be sluggish and cautious, impossible before April, with nonessential shopping or outdoor socializing. Starting March 8, several children will return to school and nursing home residents will be allowed to get one visitor on the same day.
The Conservative government of Johnson has been accused of reopening the country too soon after the first spring lockdown.
The number of new reported cases, hospitalization and deaths are all decreasing but are still high, and Johnson says “data, not dates.” will follow his reopening road map.
But he is under pressure from Conservative politicians, who argue that constraints should be lifted rapidly to stimulate an economy that in the last year has been battered by three lockdowns.
John Edmunds, a member of the government’s scientific advisory committee, said around 20,000 coronavirus patients are now being treated by British hospitals, half the peak in January but almost as high as the first surge in the spring.
“If we eased off very rapidly now, we would get another surge in hospitalisations” he told the BBC.
Due to new virus strains, including one found in South Africa that may be more resistant to current vaccines, Edmunds said there is added uncertainty.
Hancock told Sky News that in reopening the economy, the government would take a “cautious but irreversible approach”