U.K. Vaccination Drive on Track as Half of Adults Inoculated

More than half of U.K. adults have now received at least one dose of the coronavirus vaccine, a milestone for a country that has struggled in its response to the outbreak.

This figure also puts the U.K. halfway through its target to offer a first dose of the vaccine by the end of July. In comparison, fewer than one in 10 adults in the European Union have been inoculated.

More than 26.8 million people had received their first dose as of March 19, with 2.1 million getting both shots. Still, the U.K.’s progress is under threat as resistant variants of the virus could undermine the jab’s efficacy and so-called vaccine nationalism could stifle the the country’s steady supply.

On Wednesday, the Department of Health warned its vaccine distribution network about a four-week delay in supply from the end of March. That shortage is reportedly a result of India’s government holding on to the doses, a point denied by Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who received his first inoculation Friday. The EU is also questioning the export of jabs across the English Channel, while their rate of vaccination dwindles in comparison.

Martin McKee, a professor of European public health at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, said the NHS has “done a remarkable job,” but some areas of the country have not “kept the pace with others.”

The vaccination drive may also not be enough to allow people to freely go abroad on holiday this year. A new “traffic light” system for foreign travel this summer is under discussion by ministers, the Financial Times reported Saturday, with “red” countries deemed a higher risk to the U.K. to carry greater restrictions and “green” destinations that have higher vaccination rates more easily accessible.

Members of the U.K.’s Global Travel Taskforce are set to issue a report on April 12 setting out plans for how and when overseas travel can resume, with self-isolation measures not ruled out, the FT said, citing an unidentified person on the task force calls. One idea under consideration is to carry out pilots with countries that have high vaccination rates, such as the U.S., Singapore and Israel, according to the FT report.

The U.K. has been among the hardest hit by the coronavirus, with more than 126,000 lives now lost to the disease. It has the fifth-highest death toll in the world, according to JHU data. At points, its response to the pandemic has been criticized for being sluggish, especially compared with Asian nations.

The U.K. also reported 96 new deaths within 28 days of a positive coronavirus test on Saturday and 5,587 tests returning a positive result.

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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