The UK government has announced it now aims to vaccinate every adult by the end of July – a month earlier than its previous target.
It also wants everyone over the age of 50, or with an underlying health condition, to get a vaccine shot by April 15, rather than May 1.
Announcing the new target, health secretary Matt Hancock said despite suppliers running into production problems, which have plagued the UK’s neighbours in the EU, the UK should have the supplies it needs to speed up its vaccination campaign.
Pfizer and AstraZeneca, the two producers of the vaccines the UK is using, have experienced supply problems in Europe.
The EU and AstraZeneca were involved in a public row last month about supply issues.
But while the EU has been slow to roll out its vaccination programme, the UK is one of a handful of countries racing ahead.
More than 17.2 million people, almost a third of the country’s adults, have been given the first of two doses of a jab since vaccinations began on December 8.
Britain is delaying giving second vaccine doses until 12 weeks after the first in order to give as many people as possible partial protection.
The approach has been criticized in some countries — and by Pfizer — but is backed by the UK government’s scientific advisers.
The UK has the worst death toll in Europe and has spent much of the winter in a strict lockdown.
Bars, restaurants, gyms, schools, hair salons, and all nonessential shops have been closed, while grocery stores, pharmacies, and takeaway food venues are still open.
The government is considering its roadmap out of lockdown but is taking a cautious approach with hospitals still treating around 20,000 coronavirus patients.
John Edmunds, a member of the government’s scientific advisory group, told the BBC on Sunday: “If we eased off very rapidly now, we would get another surge in hospitalizations.”
Edmunds said there is added uncertainty because of new virus variants, including one identified in South Africa, that may be more resistant to current vaccines.