Half of Britain’s adult population has now received at least one coronavirus vaccine dose, the U.K.’s health secretary announced Saturday, welcome news to a nation that has been battered by the pandemic over the past 12 months but has managed to more effectively control the virus in 2021 thanks in large part to its relatively efficient vaccination program.
In a video posted to Twitter on Saturday morning, Health Secretary Matt Hancock said the U.K. administered 660,276 vaccine shots on Friday, a record number of doses for a single day.
“The vaccine is a national success story,” he said, that would serve as Britain’s “way out of this pandemic.”
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who was among those who vaccinated Friday, tweeted: “Many thanks to everyone involved in this fantastic achievement. Let’s keep going!”
The news comes amid a surge of Covid-19 cases in the European Union fuelled by the spread of more contagious variants of the virus and vaccine rollout issues and distribution difficulties that have hampered vaccination efforts. France announced Thursday that some 21 million people in and around Paris would enter a month-long partial lockdown, as more than 38,500 new coronavirus cases were reported nationwide on Wednesday (the highest number since November). Government officials in Poland have also called for a three-week shutdown of non-essential businesses. In addition, 13 European countries temporarily suspended the use of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine due to reports of a potential link to blood clots. However, by Friday, Germany, Italy and Spain resumed administering the vaccine after the European Medicines Agency determined it was “safe and effective.” (France has refused to give the AstraZeneca vaccine to anyone under 55.) The World Health Organization has also continued to recommend use of the vaccine. The U.K. vaccination program, which has relied heavily on AstraZeneca, has been more efficient than its European counterparts. Another factor has been the British government’s decision to implement a distinct immunization protocol by giving the first dose to as many people as possible instead of withholding some of the supply to administer quick second shots, which has significantly increased the number of people inoculated.
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The U.K. recently acknowledged that its vaccination pace would be slowed after confirming an incoming shipment of nearly 5 million doses would be delayed, which will lead to a reduction in supply come April.
4.2 million. According to Public Health England, there have been 4,285,600 confirmed cases of coronavirus in the U.K.. leading to more than 126,000 fatalities.