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UK’s ‘Herculean’ vaccine target can be achieved, minister says

Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak in London

LONDON (Reuters) -British Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s “Herculean” aim to vaccinate around 14 million of the most vulnerable people against COVID-19 by the middle of next month is achievable, his vaccine minister said on Wednesday.

As major powers eye the benefits of being first out of the pandemic, Britain is rushing to vaccinate its population faster than the United States and the rest of Europe, although Russia and China have been inoculating their citizens for months.

The vaccine is seen as the main way out of the COVID-19 crisis which has killed 1.87 million people, destroyed whole swathes of the global economy and upended normal life for billions of people across the world.

Johnson has set a target of vaccinating the elderly, including care home residents, the clinically vulnerable and frontline workers – around 14 million people – by mid-February.

Asked if it was achievable to vaccinate 14 million people by the middle of February and 2 million vaccinations each week by the end of this month, Minister for COVID Vaccine Deployment Nadhim Zahawi said it was.

“It is a Herculean effort,” he told Sky, adding that it was stretching but deliverable. He said that 1/4 of people over 80 years old had been vaccinated with their first shot.

More than 1.3 million people in the United Kingdom have been vaccinated against COVID-19.

Britain, grappling with the world’s fifth worst death toll and one of the worst economic hits from the COVID crisis, was the first country to roll out the vaccine developed by Pfizer and Germany’s BioNTech just under a month ago.

It this week became the first country in the world to start deploying the vaccine developed by AstraZeneca and Oxford University.

(Reporting by Sarah Young; writing by Guy Faulconbridge; Editing by Kate Holton)

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