U.K. Minister Confident All Over-50s Will Be Vaccinated by May

The U.K. is on track to vaccinate all over-50s by May, with almost 1,000 people a minute receiving shots during the peak period on Saturday, Health Minister Nadhim Zahawi said.

Zahawi, the minister responsible for vaccine strategy, said the rate of 979 doses a minute was reached between 11 a.m. and 12 p.m. on Saturday.

Speaking to Sky News, he said he was “confident” the government would meet its target to offer vaccines to the 15 million most vulnerable people by Feb. 15 and to have rolled out doses to everyone over the age of 50 by May.

The government is now starting to stockpile shots for the second doses that will be rolled out from March, Zahawi said in an interview with Sky’s Sophy Ridge on Sunday.

The U.K. is a month into its third national lockdown, with businesses shuttered and schools closed. The economy is suffering the worst hit to growth in the Group of Seven after its deepest recession in 300 years, and ministers see the vaccination program as the key to lifting restrictions and reviving businesses.

So far the U.K. has given first doses to 11.5 million people, putting it ahead of almost every other country in the world on immunizations, even though it has also suffered one of the worst death tolls, with more than 112,000 losing their lives.

More Than 128 Million Shots Given: Covid-19 Vaccine Tracker

The minister’s comments came as the World Health Organization praised the U.K.’s controversial decision to delay the second dose of vaccines in order to give more people at least some protection.

The WHO’s Covid-19 envoy David Nabarro told Sky it was “wonderful” that the U.K.’s “bravery” in doing things differently from the rest of the world had produced an effective new strategy for countering the pandemic.

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