‘Major achievement’ as 10m people receive first Covid-19 jab

Tess de la Mare, PA

Almost nine out of 10 people aged over 75 in England have received their first dose of Covid-19 vaccine, as the rollout of initial jabs passed the 10 million mark in the UK.

All residents and staff in care homes in England and Wales have also been offered a jab, the Department of Health said.

The total number of vaccines is the equivalent of inoculating the capacity of 111 Wembley stadiums.

The milestone means the NHS is close to hitting the Government’s target of vaccinating everyone in the top four priority groups by the middle of February, which account for 88% of Covid-19 deaths.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock said: “Every jab makes us all a bit safer – I want to thank everyone for playing their part.

“Vaccines are the way out of this pandemic. The unprecedented national effort we have seen right across the United Kingdom means the majority of our most vulnerable people are now inoculated against this awful disease.”

He added: “The UK Government has worked rapidly to secure and deliver doses to all of the UK, demonstrating the strength of our union and what we can achieve together.”

Government data up to February 2 shows of the 10,520,433 jabs given in the UK so far, 10,021,471 were first doses – a rise of 374,756 on the previous day’s figures.

The seven-day rolling average of first doses given in the UK is now 408,155.

Based on the latest figures, an average of 414,877 first doses of vaccine would be needed each day in order to meet the Government’s target of 15 million first doses by February 15.

Leading scientists have hailed the 10 million milestone as a huge achievement, but warned meeting the Government’s target depended on a smooth supply chain.

Professor Nilay Shah, head of the department of chemical engineering at Imperial College London, said: “It’s always been our view that aiming to hit 500,000 vaccinations a day consistently is a challenge but one that can be achieved with all elements of the system – manufacturing, storage, distribution, administration – working effectively.

“This has been achieved on many days and on average we are not far off with the figure of 10 million.

“It means that we will be roughly on track for vaccinating the first priority groups by mid-February. So it’s something to be celebrated.”

Professor Keith Neal, emeritus professor of the epidemiology of infectious diseases at the University of Nottingham, said: “I know of vaccinators who have been trained and have time to do more vaccinating – the simple issue is that this is a vaccine supply issue as to why we cannot do more.

“Pre-ordering and identifying production facilities before we knew if the vaccine would work is why we are as advanced in our vaccination coverage as we are now.

“Vaccine supply issues have been a long-standing problem well before this need for Covid-19 vaccines and to produce a brand new vaccine in bulk this quickly is a major achievement.”

Prof Neal added: “Anyone who is saying what the UK has achieved with the vaccine rollout is not good enough needs to identify what they would have done differently.”

Professor Lawrence Young, virologist and professor of molecular oncology, University of Warwick, said: “This is a great achievement and demonstrates what we can be accomplished when we empower the NHS locally.”

He added: “We have secured access to over 350 million doses of the seven most promising vaccines and now have a proven infrastructure for vaccine delivery.”

Vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi said: “The NHS is doing everything it can to protect the most vulnerable and will continue to expand the vaccination programme ever further in the coming weeks to save as many lives as possible.”

The Government is calling on the public to support the rollout by helping friends and family to make it to their vaccine appointments, and to keep up to date with NHS advice during the pandemic.

It is also asking for volunteers to join vaccine trials and trials for Covid-19 treatments.

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