Britain hits 15 million Covid vaccines target a day before deadline raising hopes of lockdown lifting
BRITAIN has smashed its Covid vaccine target – a day ahead of schedule.
All 15 million people in the top four most vulnerable categories have received at least one dose – raising hopes lockdown could be lifted.
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Boris Johnson had originally pledged to reach the milestone by February 15.
But Vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi said this afternoon: "15,000,000! Amazing team.
"We will not rest till we offer the vaccine to the whole of phase1 the 1-9 categories of the most vulnerable & all over 50s by end April and then all adults."
The milestone is a huge boost in the fight against the bug as the biggest vaccine rollout ever continues.
The PM is due to address the nation tomorrow to mark the impressive landmark.
Mr Johnson has previously said getting kids back to school hinges on vaccinating the most vulnerable by the deadline.
And he vowed this week that schools will be the first places to reopen – but not before March 8.
He is set to announce the "roadmap" out of lockdown on February 22.
Figures released yesterday revealed the UK came close to hitting its 15million Covid jab target with 14.5million receiving a first dose.
And 534,869 people have now been given a second dose of the life-saving vaccine.
Vaccination figures have been higher on weekends in the past month which has helped push numbers over the 15 million mark.
On February 6, the UK administered an incredible 549,808 jabs – and gave out a record 598,389 on January 30.
In a video shared on social media on Friday, the PM hailed the Herculean efforts of the army of volunteers and medics vaccinating the nation.
He said: "They are really going gangbusters – shooting the lights out."
And speaking during a visit to the Fujifilm Diosynth Biotechnologies plant in Billingham, Teesside, where the new Novavax vaccine will be manufactured, he said he was "optimistic" about lifting lockdown restrictions.
He said: "I'm optimistic, but we have to be cautious."
The vaccine rollout has currently focused on the top four priority groups, which includes the over-70s, care home residents, healthcare workers and Brits who are shielding.
But the programme is so advanced in some areas that over-50s are already being asked to come forward to get the jab.
And the NHS revealed on Friday that the vaccine rollout in England will be extended to all over 65s, giving three million more vulnerable adults the opportunity to have their first dose.
Professor Stephen Powis, NHS medical director, urged anyone in the top four priority groups who had not received the jab to come forward and reiterated they have "not missed their chance".
Matt Hancock revealed earlier this week that vaccine uptake in vulnerable groups had already exceeded the government's targets.
Uptake in the over-75s is at 93 per cent in England, the Department of Health said, as it aims to get the highest possible take-up in all other groups.
Ministers have embarked on a promotion blitz this weekend in a bid to encourage more Brits to get the jab.
Chancellor Rishi Sunak spoke with healthcare staff at Leeds United's Elland Road ground while it serves as a vaccination centre, and Home Secretary Priti Patel is volunteering at the Guru Nanak Gurdwara Temple in Bedford.
Meanwhile, in Wales, First Minister Mark Drakeford said some over-50s there have already begun to be contacted and offered a vaccination as the top four groups had been reached.
A Welsh Government spokesman said it was still contacting anyone in groups one to four "who may have changed their minds or may have been ill or may have, for some reason, not been able to take up the appointment".
Research shows the vaccine is doing its job of preventing people dying of Covid in a huge morale boost for Britain.
Scientists from the Covid-19 Actuaries Response Group modelled the effect of the vaccine rollout as it progresses.
Graphs show that up until February 12, deaths have reduced by around 10 per cent in the top four vaccine priority groups.
Now that the top four priority groups have received at least one vaccine, deaths could fall by a staggering 85 per cent six weeks later.
It takes at least three weeks after a vaccine dose for the immune system to build up antibodies that fight the virus.
Figures released on Saturday showed Covid deaths have dropped by a quarter in a week with 621 more fatalities.
A further 13,308 Brits have also tested positive for the disease – bringing the total number of infections to 4,027,106.
The total number of fatalities now stands at 116,908.
Deaths have continued to drop in a tentative sign the lockdown is working and Britain is getting over the darkest days of the pandemic.
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