UK says it wants all vaccine priority groups to have first shot by May

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LONDON, Feb 5 (Reuters) – Britain wants to have offered all adults over the age of 50, its most vulnerable people and health workers a vaccination against COVID-19 by May, the government said on Friday, setting a more specific target than it had done previously.

Health minister Matt Hancock said the country hoped to meet the goal but it depended on supply, adding “that is a critical part of getting everybody out of this”, referring to lockdown measures that have seen most of the country told to stay at home to bring coronavirus infections down.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson is under pressure to start reopening the economy and to bring some normality to everyday life, with some in his Conservative Party criticising him for being overly cautious.

“The UK’s vaccination programme is planned to have reached all nine priority cohorts by May,” the Cabinet Office said in an announcement permitting local elections to take place on May 6, referring to those groups who are prioritised for the shots.

Previously, the government had only said it wanted to vaccinate groups 1 to 9 by the ‘spring’.

It has committed to offer the jab to its first four priority groups – which include care home residents and staff, frontline healthcare workers, everyone over 70 years old and people classed as clinically extremely vulnerable – by Feb. 15.

On Friday, government data showed 10.97 million people had been vaccinated, close to the 15 million it hopes to reach by the mid-February target. The additional five priority groups comprise 17 million more people. (Reporting by William James, Paul Sandle and Elizabeth Piper; editing by Michael Holden and Kate Holton)

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