UK inoculates more than 20 million with two Covid-19 vaccine doses

Government statistics show Britain passed milestone on Sunday

A member of the public receives a Covid-19 vaccine at a temporary vaccination centre at the Essa academy in Bolton, northwest England on May 14, 2021. England remains on track for the latest easing of its coronavirus lockdown next week but is taking no chances after a doubling of cases of an Indian variant, the government said today. / AFP / Oli SCARFF
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Britain on Sunday passed the milestone of vaccinating 20 million adults with two doses of the coronavirus vaccine, just a day before restrictions are lifted across most of the country.

Government statistics showed 20,103,658 million have received their two vaccine doses, or 38.2 per cent of the adult population.

And 36,573,354, or 69.4 per cent of the adult population, have received a first dose since the start of the UK's campaign on December 8.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock said the vaccine programme had made "extraordinary strides" in reaching the 20-million mark.

"Receiving a second dose is vital to ensure you have the ultimate protection from this deadly virus," Mr Hancock said.

He encouraged people to book their inoculation as soon as it was offered.

Vaccines Minister Nadhim Zahawi said the development was "another incredible milestone".

"It is inspiring to see the incredible public response to our call to arms to get the inoculation," Mr Zahawi said.

"We have one the highest vaccine uptake rates in the world but our work is not done yet."

Britain, one of the first countries in the world to begin a mass Covid-19 vaccine campaign, chose to delay giving the second vaccine dose until 12 weeks after the first, instead of four weeks as was done in clinical trials.

On Monday, most of the UK will take a major step in reopening the economy, with restaurants and bars opening indoors and entertainment venues such as sports stadiums and cinemas reopening with some restrictions.

But the unlocking has coincided with the arrival of a more transmissible coronavirus variant from India.

To counter the new strain, the government said it would accelerate the introduction of second vaccines doses to over-50s and the clinically vulnerable, cutting the interval from the first inoculation to eight weeks.

Data from Public Health England shows the vaccines are already having a significant impact, saving more than 11,700 lives and preventing 33,000 hospital admissions in England by the end of April.

The government has said its goal is to give a first dose to all adults by the end of July.

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