Britain’s vaccination programme is ‘envy of the world’, cabinet minister claims

Alister Jack will reiterate government’s aim for every adult to be offered first dose of Covid-19 vaccine by the end of July

Ashley Cowburn
Political Correspondent
Sunday 14 March 2021 08:40

Britain’s vaccination programme is the “envy of the world”, the Scottish secretary Alister Jack will claim as the latest government figures showed over 23.6 million people have received a first dose.

Paying tribute to the NHS and the armed services who have helped administer Covid-19 jabs, the cabinet minister will describe the rollout so far as a “truly astonishing achievement, a task on a scale that dwarfs anything since the war”.

Ahead of Boris Johnson’s address to the Scottish Conservative conference on Sunday, he will also reiterate the government’s aim to have offered every adult across the UK a first dose of a vaccine before the end of July.

A separate analysis over the weekend showed the NHS could reach the target more than a month early — on 10 June — amid reports that the rollout will expanded rapidly in the coming weeks due to an increase in supply.

“The United Kingdom has a Covid-19 vaccination programme that is the envy of the world,” Mr Jack will say. “In Scotland, millions of doses of Valneva’s vaccine are rolling off the production line at a high-tech plant in Livingston, ready for approval.

“Key groups were prioritised for the first injections and now we are moving such a pace that we hope every adult in the country will have received at least an initial dose of vaccine by late July.”

But responding to Mr Jack’s comments, the Liberal Democrat leader Ed Davey said: “This vaccine roll out is down to scientists from around the world, and both NHS staff and volunteers across the country - they can all be incredibly proud of their achievement.

“The goal now is to get the country up and running and share the vaccines around the world. The pandemic is not over until it’s over everywhere.”

Just last month, the World Health Organisation (WHO) also raised alarm that out of 128 million vaccine doses administered across the globe, around three-quarters were in just 10 countries that account for 60 per cent of global GDP.

In a joint statement with UNICEF, the organisation appealed for “global leadership” to achieve “vaccine equity”, adding on 10 February that almost 130 countries were set to administer a single dose. They warned world leaders that the current trajectory will “give the virus further opportunity to mutate and evade vaccines and will undermine global recovery”.

The cabinet minister’s remarks also came as scores of health charities published an open letter urging those with underlying health conditions such as cancer and diabetes — cohort six of the government’s vaccine priority list — to come forward for a Covid jab.

The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) said more than half of those in this group have already received their first dose of a vaccine and are hoping the call from 18 charities, including organisations such as Diabetes UK and the Terrence Higgins Trust, will encourage greater numbers to book an appointment.

“The vast majority of you should already have been invited for vaccination and more than half of you have already received you first dose,” the letter said.

“Some of you may still be waiting for a letter from your GP. But the good news is, even if you have not received your letter yet, you can now get an appointment at a vaccination centre or community pharmacy, quickly and easily, by using the national booking system or calling 119 in England”.

Matt Hancock, the health secretary, said: “This open letter is a hugely important way to reassure those with underlying health conditions, and their carers, about the safety and effectiveness of the vaccine. The charities’ support for this national vaccine effort is invaluable in encouraging more people to come forward and helping us to save lives”.

Vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi added: “We have already given a first dose of the vaccine to more than half of those in cohort 6 and I am grateful to the charities who are encouraging more people in that group to come forward.

“The vaccine is our way out of this pandemic and offers the chance to protect yourself and others - that’s why it’s vital that people get their jab.

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