Britain announced Sunday that it has given more than 20 million people at least one dose of a coronavirus vaccine, with the rapid rollout providing hope in a country with Europe's highest death toll.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock made the announcement in a video on Twitter, saying: "I'm absolutely delighted that over 20 million people have now been vaccinated."
In mid-February, the UK met a government target of 15 million of the most vulnerable people receiving first doses.
The government says it plans to offer a first jab to the whole adult population by the end of July.
Frequently Asked Questions
A vaccine works by mimicking a natural infection. A vaccine not only induces immune response to protect people from any future COVID-19 infection, but also helps quickly build herd immunity to put an end to the pandemic. Herd immunity occurs when a sufficient percentage of a population becomes immune to a disease, making the spread of disease from person to person unlikely. The good news is that SARS-CoV-2 virus has been fairly stable, which increases the viability of a vaccine.
There are broadly four types of vaccine — one, a vaccine based on the whole virus (this could be either inactivated, or an attenuated [weakened] virus vaccine); two, a non-replicating viral vector vaccine that uses a benign virus as vector that carries the antigen of SARS-CoV; three, nucleic-acid vaccines that have genetic material like DNA and RNA of antigens like spike protein given to a person, helping human cells decode genetic material and produce the vaccine; and four, protein subunit vaccine wherein the recombinant proteins of SARS-COV-2 along with an adjuvant (booster) is given as a vaccine.
Vaccine development is a long, complex process. Unlike drugs that are given to people with a diseased, vaccines are given to healthy people and also vulnerable sections such as children, pregnant women and the elderly. So rigorous tests are compulsory. History says that the fastest time it took to develop a vaccine is five years, but it usually takes double or sometimes triple that time.
Only Israel and the United Arab Emirates have vaccinated more people per head of population.
Smiling, Hancock said "I want to thank every single person who has come forward to get the jab," calling this "the route out of this for all of us."
"There's a long way to go but we're making big strides," he said.
The UK's vaccination programme has rolled out fast since its start in early December, when it became the first country in the world to begin mass inoculation with a fully trialled vaccine.
Earlier failures in contact tracing and controlling the spread of infection saw cases soar in the UK and the country's death toll of 122,705 is the highest in Europe.
The country is still under national lockdown but daily cases, hospitalisations and deaths have all fallen dramatically since late January, despite the emergence of a more infectious variant.On Thursday, Britain lowered the country's virus alert level down one notch from the highest possible, saying the fall in cases had reduced the threat to the state-run National Health Service.