More than 15 million people in the U.K. have had their first dose of a coronavirus vaccine, in a move hailed as a â€œsignificant milestoneâ€ by Prime Minister Boris Johnson.
The U.K. government on Sunday evening confirmed that 15,062,189 people had now received a first dose of the jab, with Johnson saying the â€œextraordinary featâ€ had seen vaccines administered â€œinto the arms of some of the most vulnerable people in the country.â€
Ministers had aimed to offer a vaccine to everyone in the U.K.â€™s top four priority groups â€” equivalent to 15 million people â€” by February 15.
While the data does not show whether this pledge has been met across the four U.K. nations, Johnson said all four vulnerable cohorts in England had now received their first dose. Wales last week became the first U.K. nation to meet the aim.
Britainâ€™s four initial priority groups include frontline staff in the National Health Service; care home residents and workers; those aged over 70; and people who are regarded as clinically extremely vulnerable. The NHS this weekend began inviting people aged 65-69 to get vaccinated.
The figure comes two months after Britain â€” which has endured a steep death toll from the virus â€” began a vaccination program that has drawn favorable international comparisons.
Jonathan Ashworth, shadow health secretary for the opposition Labour Party, said ministers needed to â€œlock in the gains of vaccinationâ€ by boosting measures to curb the spread of the virus, including more generous financial support for those in self-isolation.
“We have already seen the virus mutate, itâ€™s urgent more is done to reduce its spread while vaccination continues at pace,â€ he added.
The health serviceâ€™s chief executive Simon Stevens said the milestone was a “remarkable shared achievementâ€ and marked the â€œbiggest and fastest in Europe â€” and in the health service’s history.”
The latest figures meanwhile show 537,715 people in the U.K. have received a second dose of a vaccine.