ON Monday, we will take the second step on our road to recovery – with shops, hairdressers and self-contained accommodation opening their doors once again.
We’ve already seen heartwarming scenes of people reuniting with loved ones. Like many others, I’ve seen friends — in the garden — for the first time in months.
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We are able to make all this progress thanks to the resolve of the great British public — and because of the vaccine.
The UK has rolled out the biggest vaccination programme in history and we have done it at phenomenal pace.
As our world-class regulator, the MHRA, says, the vaccine is safe and effective. When you get the call, please get the jab.
We were the first country in the world to not only authorise a vaccine, but to roll it out. We have now given first doses to more than six in ten adults, which has had a huge impact in protecting the most vulnerable.
Recent data shows that more than 6,000 lives have been saved by the end of February — with many more since.
I am so grateful to our wonderful healthcare staff and to all the volunteers who have played their part in this national effort, including A Journalist’s very own Jabs Army.
You have kept us on track to hit our target of offering the vaccine to every adult in England by the end of July.
One of the things I am most proud of is the incredibly high uptake of the vaccine — more than 31million people have now had a jab.
In every one of the most vulnerable age groups — people in their 50s, 60s, 70s, 80s and above — more than 90 per cent have had the jab. People are getting their second jabs in increasing numbers.
This high take-up is beyond my highest hopes. It is far higher than we planned for.
And that matters because, combined with the high effectiveness of the vaccines, high take-up makes exiting lockdowns safer.
In fact, on a recent survey, there was more enthusiasm to have the jab in Britain than in any other country. I think, in part, this is because we have been completely transparent about the benefits and risks of the vaccinations, and been guided by the best science on the planet.
So it is important that we listen carefully to the scientific advice and to the regulators.
Yesterday they published the full information about the risk of a very rare blood clot that about four people in a million get after the AstraZeneca vaccine.
The scientists say they do not know if it is directly caused by the vaccine, but we all want to take a safety-first approach.
RACE AGAINST TIME
The risk is, in their words, “very low”, but it is slightly higher in younger people, who are, of course, less likely to die of Covid, too.
All medicines have risk — including ones we use regularly like aspirin — but we use them because the benefits they give us are so big.
For anyone over 30, or anyone who has had their first dose, we will carry on as before. For under-30s with no underlying health conditions, the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation advises that, as a precaution and if available, it is preferable to offer an alternative vaccine.
This could be either the Pfizer jab or the new Moderna one that we began to roll out yesterday.
I hope people see this action as reassuring that the system we have for monitoring side-effects is working, and that we are prepared to follow the science and take action to roll out the vaccine in the safest, most effective way possible.
Our scientists and regulators insist on strict safety, effectiveness and quality standards, so you should have every confidence in rolling up your sleeve to get protected.
It has truly been a race against time to beat this deadly virus and I am incredibly proud of the progress we have made together.
One in ten people has now had both jabs — well on the way to full protection.
The benefits of getting a jab are clear, and the evidence is there for everyone to see. Vaccinations far outweigh the low risks for the vast majority of adults, so you should have confidence in the NHS, the vaccine and the advice you are getting.
Of course, we remain watchful and will keep working with the independent experts as the vaccine rollout continues and we get more data.
And what does all this mean for the vaccine programme and the Prime Minister’s roadmap out of lockdown?
The answer to that is good news: We are on track to offer a jab to everyone in the top nine priority groups by April 15, and to all adults by the end of July. And the roadmap is on track.
In the meantime, if you are offered the vaccine, I would urge you to get it as soon as possible as it is the best protection against Covid-19.
It will not only help to protect you, it will also help to protect your loved ones.
We all must do our bit if we are to continue making progress and taking the steps that will bring us closer to returning to normal life so that we may all enjoy a great British summer safely.
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