The United Kingdom government on Sunday declared it had hit its target of offering every adult in the country a COVID-19 vaccine by the end of this month ahead of time.
The Department of Health and Social Care said a total of 81,959,398 doses of COVID vaccines have been administered in the UK, with 46,227,101 people receiving a first dose (87.8 per cent) and 35,732,297 people receiving both doses (67.8 per cent).
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson had set targets to offer a vaccine to all adults in the UK and to vaccinate two in three adults with both doses by July 19 and DHSC said both targets have now been achieved ahead of the so-called “Freedom Day” on Monday, when England is to emerge from all legal lockdown restrictions.
“Barely eight months since the first vaccine was given, reaching these targets is another extraordinary achievement,” said Johnson, who is now in self-isolation at his Chequers country retreat after being alerted of his contact with COVID positive Health Secretary Sajid Javid.
“Thank you again to everyone coming forward, and to those helping others to get jabbed. You are the reason we are able to cautiously ease restrictions next week, and return closer towards normal life. Now let's finish the job. If you're over 18, book both your jabs today,” he said.
All adults in the UK are able to get their second doses after a gap of eight weeks, shortened from 12 weeks to cover more people with added protection against the Delta variant's spread in the country. This means every adult has the chance to have both doses by mid-September, DHSC said.
“People are urged to get their first and second doses as soon as possible to protect themselves and the people around them. Double vaccinated people will be able to return to doing the things they have missed, such as going on holiday and attending events which require the NHS Covid Pass,” it said.
Data from Public Health England shows COVID-19 vaccines are highly effective against hospitalisation from the Delta variant, the B.1.617.2 mutation first identified in India. The analysis shows the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine is 96 per cent effective and the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine is 92 per cent effective against hospitalisation after two doses.
Further analysis from PHE and the University of Cambridge also suggests vaccines have so far prevented an estimated 11.8 million infections and almost 37,000 deaths in England alone.
“Our world-leading vaccination programme is helping to build up a strong defence around our population, saving tens of thousands of lives and preventing millions of infections to allow us to cautiously progress through the roadmap,” said Sajid Javid.
“As we start to cautiously ease restrictions, I implore every adult, no matter your age, background or occupation, to get your vaccine as soon as possible,” added Vaccines Minister Nadhim Zahawi.
Under the updated rules, people who have been vaccinated with both doses will not have to quarantine on their return to England from an amber or low risk country -- with the exception of France, where the Beta variant is on the rise -- from Monday, providing they received their second jab at least 14 days prior.
From August 16, double vaccinated people will also no longer be legally required to self-isolate if they are identified as a close contact of a positive COVID-19 case. They will instead be encouraged to take a test to confirm in case they are also COVID positive.
The daily infection rate in the UK remains high, with 54,674 new coronavirus cases and 41 deaths recorded in the latest 24-hour period over the weekend.
Many scientists and medics have warned against a complete lifting of lockdown rules, with different parts of the United Kingdom choosing to keep face masks in enclosed spaces compulsory beyond Monday.
In England, the government guidance urges people to continue to wear masks indoors, with London's transport network keeping it a compulsory requirement.