Around 15 million people have now received their first doses of the coronavirus vaccine or have been offered one in the UK, meaning the majority of people in the country”s top four priority groups have been reached.
The figure, revealed on Sunday, means the UK government has met its goal of giving at least one jab to the nation’s most vulnerable citizens, including everyone over the age of 75. It also includes frontline healthcare workers and nursing home staff.
“15,000,000! Amazing team,” said vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi, who promised “we will not rest” until all nine categories of vulnerable citizens and those over 50 had been offered the vaccine by April.
Sunday’s figure equates to around 22% of the UK’s population having received first doses. However, figures suggest the UK’s performance is behind many other European countries when second jabs are considered.
Ministers are now being pressured to give people an idea of when they could see a potential end to lockdown.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who placed England into its third national lockdown in early January, has promised to reveal his plan on February 22 — although has continued to urge caution in the meantime.
“We have still got infections running very high throughout the country — levels which last year we would have thought were really very high indeed — (and) still, sadly, a great many deaths in our hospitals,” he said on Saturday. “Although the number is beginning to come down, and perhaps starting to come down quite fast, we need to look at the data very, very hard.”
How does UK compare to Europe?
The UK has pushed far ahead of wider Europe after getting a head start in December as the first country to approve a vaccine.
First approvals in the EU came weeks later — and the subsequent roll-out has equally lagged.
When comparing the two, the UK is far ahead with its delivery of first shots to citizens.
In a far-behind second is Germany, with 4 million doses administered, followed again by Italy and France with almost 3 million doses. Poland is fourth with just over 2 million doses given out.
Worldwide, the UK ranks behind Israel, the Seychelles and the UAE, who have given 71%, 53% and 50% of their populations their first jabs respectively. The US is in fifth place at 15%.
Full vaccinations — a different European picture
The latest data concerning the share of the population to have been fully vaccinated paints a different picture.
This represents the share that have received all doses prescribed by the vaccination protocol.
Figures from Oxford University’s Our World in Data project suggest the UK lies towards the bottom of the European league table in terms of the proportion of people to have received both recommended doses.
According to the data, 0.79% of the population had been fully vaccinated in the UK by February 13 — which government figures say still amounts to over 537,000 people — compared to 2.14% in Spain, 2.12% in Italy or 1.82% in Ireland.
The table puts Malta at the top, having fully vaccinated 3.34% of its population, followed by Denmark on 2.88%.
Serbia donates doses to North Macedonia
Serbia on Sunday donated a first batch of 8,000 Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine doses to North Macedonia, which is yet to deliver its first jabs.
Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic and North Macedonian Prime Minister Zoran Zaev attended a border checkpoint handover ceremony of the shipment, praising friendship between the two neighbouring Balkan states.
Serbia, a country of 7 million, has so far vaccinated some 600,000 people, mainly with the Chinese Sinopharm vaccine and Russian Sputnik V, and to a lesser extent with the Pfizer jab.
The country has been one of the most successful in Europe in terms of how fast it has rolled out the vaccine among its population.
Many of the states in the region are reconsidering their strategy of waiting for Western-supplied shots and are mulling the purchase of the Chinese and Russian ones.