One in three adults across the UK has now had a coronavirus vaccine, Health Secretary Matt Hancock confirmed today.
Appearing on the BBC One’s The Andrew Marr Show, he described the achievement as ‘great news’. He went on: ‘We are confident that the vaccine works effectively against both the old strain that has been here for some time and the so-called Kent variant, which is now the main source of infection in this country.’
Hancock went on to say there was not yet the confidence that the vaccine was ‘as effective’ against the South African Covid variant, or the mutation first seen in Brazil.
The latest data shows that around a dozen new cases of the South African variant had been found in the UK, bringing the nation’s total to around 300 cases, he said.
He added: ‘But we do think that the measures that we have taken – both the enhanced contact tracing and the measures at the border – are reducing those new variants here.’
Hancock also confirmed the Government’s new targets for the vaccine rollout, after more than 15 million people received their first dose of a jab by last week.
All adults aged over 50, as well as those with underlying health conditions, should have received their first dose of a vaccine by April 15, while the Government aims to have offered all UK adults a jab by July 31.
The order of priority for those under 50 is still yet to be outlined by the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI).
Ministers had previously set a target to offer vaccines to all adults by September, with an aim to reach all those aged 50 and over by May. The quicker rollout will likely increase current pressure on Boris Johnson to relax lockdown measures.
The Prime Minister is expected to unveil his four-step plan for easing Covid restrictions on Monday, with rough dates for businesses to reopen, team sports to resume and families to reunite.
But Hancock told Sky News today that while ‘all of us understandably want to get back to normal’, it was right to be cautious when easing the restrictions.
He said: ‘The vaccination programme, whilst clearly going very well, will take time to be able to reach all people who have significant vulnerability, especially because we need to get the second jab to everybody.
‘We’ve got time that needs to be taken to get this right. The Prime Minister will set out the roadmap tomorrow and he will set out the full details – taking into account that we need to take a cautious but irreversible approach, that’s the goal.’
He added: ‘Whilst we want to set out a road map which gives people guidance in terms of how we think we will be able to do this, we also absolutely will be vigilant to the data on the way.
‘We have seen throughout this pandemic that there have been moments when things haven’t got as we expected – for instance, when the new variant was first discovered in Kent.’
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