LONDON (AFP) - Britain on Sunday (May 16) passed the milestone of vaccinating 20 million adults with two doses of the coronavirus jab, just a day before a raft of restrictions are lifted across most of the country.
According to government statistics, 20,103,658 million have now received their full two vaccine doses - 38.2 per cent of the adult population.
Still more have received a first dose - 36,573,354, or 69.4 per cent of the adult population - with a total of 56,677,012 million vaccines administered since the start of the UK's campaign on December 8.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock said the vaccine programme had made "extraordinary strides" in reaching the 20-million mark.
"Receiving a second dose is vital to ensure you have the ultimate protection from this deadly virus," he added, encouraging people to come forward to book their jab as soon as they were offered it.
Vaccines Minister Nadhim Zahawi said the development was "another incredible milestone".
"It is inspiring to see the incredible public response to our call to arms to get the jab. We have one the highest vaccine uptake rates in the world, but our work is not done yet." Britain, one of the first countries in the world to begin a mass Covid-19 vaccine campaign, opted to delay giving the second vaccine dose until 12 weeks after the first dose - instead of after four weeks as was done in clinical trials.
On Monday most of the UK will take a major step in reopening the economy, with restaurants and bars opening their indoors and entertainment venues like sports stadiums and cinemas reopening with some restrictions.
However the unlocking has coincided with the arrival of a more transmissible coronavirus variant from India.
To counter the new strain the government has said it will accelerate the rollout of second vaccines doses to over-50s and the clinically vulnerable, cutting the interval since the first jab to eight weeks.
Data from Public Health England shows the vaccines are already having a significant impact, reducing hospitalisations and deaths, saving more than 11,700 lives and preventing 33,000 hospitalisations in England by the end of April.
The government has said its goal is to give a first dose to all adults by the end of July.