82-year-old Brian Pinker from Oxford University/AstraZeneca COVID- from Oxford University/AstraZeneca COVID- 19 received the vaccine. April 4, 2021 in London, England. (Photo: Steve Parsons-WPA Pool/Getty Images)
Steve Parsons | WPA pool | Getty Images News | Getty images
The UK government announced Sunday it aims to get the first dose of the coronavirus vaccine to all adults across the country by July 31, one month earlier than last month’s target.
The new target is also aimed at anyone who is 50 years of age or older or has an underlying medical condition to get vaccinated by April 15, above the previous target for May 1.
The two vaccines the UK is using, Pfizer and AstraZeneca, both have experienced supply problems in Europe. But British Health Secretary Matt Hancock, who announced the new goal, said to speed up the vaccination campaign, “I think we have supplies now.”
The initial success of the UK’s vaccination campaign is good news for a country with more than 120,000 coronavirus deaths, the highest number in Europe. Since vaccinations began on December 8, more than 17.2 million people, that is, nearly a third of adults across the country, have received the first of the two vaccinations.
The UK is deferring the second vaccination until 12 weeks after the first vaccination to quickly provide partial protection to as many people as possible. This approach has been criticized by some countries and Pfizer, which says there is no data to support the delay, but it is backed by scientific advisors from the UK government.
News of the new vaccination goal came when Prime Minister Boris Johnson met with senior ministers on Sunday to finalize the “roadmap” of the country’s blockade, which he plans to release on Monday.
Faced with a dominant British virus strain that scientists say is more contagious and more lethal, Britain spent most of its winter under strict containment. Bars, restaurants, gyms, schools, beauty salons, and all non-essential shops are closed, but grocery stories, pharmacies and takeaway food places are still open.
The government stressed that economic and social resumption would be slow and cautious as unnecessary shopping or outdoor socializing would not take place before April. Many children return to school from March 8th, and nursing home residents can welcome one visitor on the same day.
Johnson’s Conservative government has been accused of reopening the country too soon after the first blockade in spring.
The number of newly confirmed cases, hospitalizations, and deaths are all declining, but are still high and Johnson said his resumption roadmap will follow “data, not date.”
But he is under pressure from Conservative party lawmakers who argue that restrictions must be lifted quickly to revive an economy that was damaged by three blockades last year.
John Edmunds, a member of the government’s scientific advisory group, said UK hospitals are still treating about 20,000 coronavirus patients. This is half of the peak in January, but about the height of the first surge in spring.
“If we calm down very quickly now, hospitalizations and deaths will skyrocket again,” he told the BBC.
Edmunds said new virus strains added uncertainty, including those identified in South Africa that may be more resistant to current vaccines.
Hancock told Sky News that the government would take a “careful but irreversible approach” to resume the economy.
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