Most adults in the UK will receive a Covid vaccine by the end of May, according to a senior government adviser, in a major boost for hopes of a return to normality by the summer.
Samuel Kasumu, a senior adviser to the Prime Minister on ethnic minorities, revealed the target in a resignation letter leaked to the BBC that he later retracted.
An earlier mix-up from the Cabinet Office had suggested that all over-50s will be offered a vaccine by May.
A Number 10 spokesperson initially said the plan to reach all nine priority cohorts in time for local elections that month had been announced in error, before clarifying that the target was indeed correct.
Previously the government has declined to give a firm date, saying only that all over-50s would likely receive their first dose of a vaccine “by the spring”, and the top four vulnerable groups by mid-February.
The timeline means more than 32m people will have been offered a first dose of the vaccine by the summer — almost half the UK population.
The Prime Minister last week promised 2021 would usher a return of the “Great British summer,” but warned that it was too early to lift restrictions while Covid cases remain “alarmingly high”.
Almost 11m doses of the vaccine have been administered across the country so far, after the UK earlier this week passed the major milestone of immunising 10m people.
Health secretary Matt Hancock heralded the “hugely significant” landmark, adding that “every jab makes us all a bit safer”.
It means one in five adults in Britain have now received their first dose of the vaccine, including almost 90 per cent of over-80s and half of people in their 70s.
The figure means Britain comfortably leads Europe in the global vaccine race, and sits third in the world behind Israel and the United Arab Emirates.
Meanwhile, the EU has remained sluggish in its immunisation programme, with just three per cent of people across the bloc vaccinated so far.
So far, the nation’s largest ever vaccination programme has seen just two out of seven vaccines ordered by the government rolled out — the Astrazeneca/Oxford University and Pfizer/Biontech jabs.
But scientists have suggested the rollout could be sped up even further when other vaccines are added to the UK’s roster, including the Moderna jab, which is set to become available next month.