LONDON: All adults in Britain will be offered a first shot of a COVID-19 vaccine by the end of July, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Saturday (Feb 20) ahead of a planned announcement on the cautious reopening of the economy from lockdown.
Johnson will set out a roadmap to ease England's third national lockdown on Monday, having met a target to vaccinate 15 million Britons from higher-risk categories by mid-February.
Britain now aims to give a first dose to all over-50s by Apr 15, the government said, having previously indicated it wished them to receive the shot by May.
If all adults receive a dose by the end of July, it will be well ahead of a previous target that they would receive a vaccine by autumn.
After suffering the world's fifth-worst official COVID-19 death toll and a series of mishaps in its pandemic response, Johnson's government moved faster than much of the West to secure vaccine supplies, giving it a head start.
Johnson cautioned that there was a need to avoid complacency, adding that lockdown would only be lifted slowly.
"We will now aim to offer a jab to every adult by the end of July, helping us the most vulnerable sooner, and take further steps to ease some of the restrictions in place," Johnson said in a statement.
"But there should be no doubt - the route out of lockdown will be cautious and phased, as we all continue to protect ourselves and those around us."
The makers of the two vaccines that Britain is using, Pfizer and AstraZeneca, have both experienced supply problems in Europe. But UK Health Secretary Matt Hancock said “we now think that we have the supplies” to speed up the vaccination campaign.
So far, the United Kingdom has given a first dose of vaccine to 17.2 million people, more than a quarter of its 67 million population and behind only Israel and the United Arab Emirates in vaccines per head of population.
Two vaccines - one made by Pfizer and BioNTech, and another developed by the University of Oxford and AstraZeneca - are being rolled out, and UK officials have advised that there can be a 12 week gap between doses.