Britain’s business minister, Kwasi Kwarteng, told BBC News on Wednesday that by the end of the week, half the adult population in the country would be “vaccinated,” in an apparent reference to receiving the first dose of the two-dose regimen.
According to the government, almost 25 million people have received a first vaccine shot and 1.6 million have received two. After suffering heavily from the year-long pandemic, Britain moved aggressively to vaccinate its population at levels far higher than the rest of Europe.
Kwarteng noted that since the vaccinations have begun, there have been sharp drops in the number cases, deaths, hospitalizations and the rate at which the virus is spreading.
“All of these things have come down considerably, because of the vaccinations, because of the fact that I think by the end of the week we will have vaccinated half the adult population,” he said, noting that elsewhere in Europe the figure was only 10 percent.
Daily new cases in Britain dropped from around 45,000 a day in mid-January to just 5,000 a day now, while deaths have seen a similar sharp drop from over 1,000/day to just 110 on Tuesday.
Britain has approved the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine and the one developed by AstraZeneca with Oxford University, which is currently under scrutiny in Europe over possible connections to blood clots.
Several European countries have suspended use of the vaccine, disrupting already slow vaccination rollouts there.
The former chief executive of Britain’s Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency lamented the move, echoing the World Health Organization that no link had been established between a few isolated cases and the vaccine.
“They are individual instances of conditions that happen fairly commonly in the population at large and there is nothing emerging from them which out to cause a general shift in vaccination policy,” Sir Kent Woods told the BBC.