The UK government says it has successfully met its first vaccination target after administering 15 million vaccine doses to its top four priority groups by February 15. The groups include everyone over 70, frontline health and social care workers, those living in care homes and the clinically extremely vulnerable.
The UK has reported more than 117,000 deaths and more than 4 million coronavirus cases to date, and its government has been widely criticized for its pandemic response — especially in the early stages of the outbreak last year.
Last spring, the British government had one of the highest national death tolls globally, having dragged its feet to impose lockdown restrictions, shown reluctance to enforce rules and following futile attempts to track and trace the spread of the virus.
Its border was also still wide open, and the government was throwing money at a rotating cast of private sector consultants to secure basic personal protective equipment (PPE) — an effort that appeared more successful at generating controversy than securing supplies.
But the government’s foresight in backing coronavirus vaccines has turned into one of the most surprising success stories of the pandemic.
The 15 million administered doses is more than Germany, France, Italy, Spain, Poland and Belgium combined. The UK has the third-highest vaccination rate worldwide behind Israel and the UAE.
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson celebrated the moment on Sunday, calling it a “significant milestone” and an “extraordinary feat.”
“In England I can now tell you we have now offered jabs to everyone in the first four priority groups, the people most likely to be severely ill from Coronavirus, hitting the first target we set ourselves,” he said on Twitter.
UK experts attribute their vaccination success to a series of big bets on then-unproven vaccines and a decision to do it alone, rather than joining the European Union’s procurement effort, in order to bypass bureaucratic hoops that left the EU lagging behind.
The British government also plans to give a first dose to the remaining risk groups and adults over 50 by the end of April.
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CNN – CNN INTERNATIONAL