UK hits target of giving 15 million people their first dose of Covid vaccine

14 February 2021, 14:29 | Updated: 14 February 2021, 16:46

The UK has hit its target of vaccinating 15 million people against Covid by 15 February.
The UK has hit its target of vaccinating 15 million people against Covid by 15 February. Picture: PA

By Joe Cook

The UK has hit its target of giving 15 million people their first dose of the coronavirus vaccine in a milestone moment for the country.

All those in the top four priority groups, who are most likely to become seriously ill if they catch Covid, have now been offered a vaccine.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the UK had "achieved an extraordinary feat" and heralded it as a "significant milestone".

Meanwhile, an emotional Health Secretary Matt Hancock described the moment as "fantastic news".

"The vaccine is our route to freedom - we will beat this virus jab by jab," he added, revealing one in four adults have now received their first dose.

Read more: Clinically vulnerable and over-65s offered Covid jab from Monday

The 15 million target was reached two days earlier than expected, just over two months after Margaret Keenan received the first jab outside of a trial on 8 December.

In an upbeat video, Mr Johnson highlighted "the most extraordinary army of vaccinators who have jabbed like there is no tomorrow" to achieve the target.

"It has been a truly national, UK-wide effort. We have done it together," he continued.

"I want to thank each and every person who has helped make it happen, you can be incredibly proud of the part you have played.

"If you're eligible for a jab but haven't had it yet, but you want to join in, you haven't missed out, just call 119 and the NHS will book you in."

Read more: Domestic and international vaccine passports 'being considered', Raab tells LBC

Vaccine Minister Nadhim Zahawi also tweeted his thanks to his "amazing team", adding they would not rest until all adults in the UK have been vaccinated.

Responding to the news, Labour Shadow Health Secretary Jonathan Ashworth said: "15 million vaccinations is a brilliant achievement - thank you to our fantastic NHS, volunteers, armed forces and all involved with this success.

"As we move to second jabs and first jabs for groups 5-9 we need to lock-in these vaccination gains by doing more to reduce virus spread."

Read more: Learning disabled facing 'postcode lottery' for Covid jabs, LBC told

As the vaccination programme moves into a new phase, clinically vulnerable people in England and the over-65s are now being urged to book their Covid jab.

Nearly 1.2 million letters were due to have been delivered by Saturday asking people to log on to the national booking service, with a further 1.2 million expected to arrive in the coming week.

The vaccine rollout has brought new hope in the fight against Covid-19.
The vaccine rollout has brought new hope in the fight against Covid-19. Picture: PA

The ongoing success of the vaccine programme has led to growing calls for the government to set-out a clear roadmap for exiting lockdown, with some MPs pressuring for a return to normal by the end of the spring.

On Sunday, the UK reported 10972 new positive cases of Covid-19, the lowest daily increase since 2 October. The seven day rolling average is also down 28.1 percent compared to last week.

A further 258 people have died within 28 days of a positive Covid test, the lowest number of deaths reported on a Sunday since 13 December.

However, many scientific experts are warning that case numbers still remain high, with caution needed if this is to be the last national lockdown.

Read more: Boris Johnson 'optimistic' ahead of his roadmap for easing lockdown

The impact of the vaccination effort is likely to take a few weeks to make effect case numbers, hospitalisations and deaths, with protective immunity developing after 21 days.

On Sunday, the Foreign Secretary Dominic Rabb indicated that allowing people to socialise outdoors and the reopening of non-essential shops would be early priorities as controls eased.

But the return to schools is almost certain to be the first area to return to normal, with Boris Johnson expected to lay out his plans on February 22, with students in England going back on 8 March.

In Scotland and Wales, where cases are lower, students are returning earlier than in England, with a phased return beginning from 22 February.

Read more: Talk of opening pubs in April is premature, health expert warns

Mr Raab also told LBC’s Swarbrick on Sunday, the government is "considering" Covid vaccine passports for both domestic and international travel.

The secretary of state confirmed the government "hasn't ruled out" introducing the Covid documents both within the UK and for overseas travel.

The measure would effectively require people to show their vaccine passport in order to move internationally and within Britain's borders.

Read more: Tory MP rejects Brits needing vaccine passports 'to go about their lives'

The foreign secretary added that the modalities and mechanisms for reopening the country still "need to be worked out" but that ministers are considering the introduction of domestic Covid passports.

"It's something that hasn't been ruled out and it's under consideration, but of course you've got to make it workable," he said.

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