The UK government said Sunday that it reached its goal of giving at least one COVID-19 vaccine shot to the most vulnerable people in the country, increasing pressure on ministers to clarify when they will ease a lockdown imposed in early January. More than 15 million people, or 22% of the UK population, have received their first shot, the AP reports. The figure includes most people in the government's top four priority groups, including everyone over 75, front-line health care workers and nursing home staff and residents. "15,000,000! Amazing team,'' Nadhim Zahawi, the vaccines minister, tweeted. "We will not rest till we offer the vaccine to the whole of phase 1 the 1-9 categories of the most vulnerable & all over 50s by end April and then all adults.''
Prime Minister Boris Johnson plans to unveil his plan for easing restrictions on Feb. 22 amid signs that infection rates, hospitalizations, and deaths have fallen sharply since England’s third national lockdown began on Jan. 4. He said that in England, everyone in the four top priority groups had been offered the vaccine. He plans to release further details Monday. Britain has reported over 117,000 virus-related deaths, the highest pandemic toll in Europe. After administering its first AstraZeneca shot last month, the nation ranks behind only Israel, 71%, the Seychelles, 53%, and the United Arab Emirates, 50%, in the share of people who have received one dose, according to Oxford University. The US is fifth at 15%. While the vaccines currently authorized for use in the UK require two doses to ensure full protection against COVID-19, British authorities say one dose provides a significant level of protection.
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