Almost half of all adults aged 25 to 29 in England and a third of those aged 18 to 24 have received their first dose of a coronavirus jab, according to the vaccines minister.
Nadhim Zahawi defended the Government’s decision to delay the final stage of the road map, as he said the additional four weeks to July 19 would give the NHS more time to get “those remaining jabs in arms”.
He told a Downing Street press conference that more than 14,000 lives had been saved by the vaccination programme, while 44,500 hospital admissions had also been averted in England – 2,500 in the past two weeks.
Referring to younger adults coming forward to be vaccinated, he told the press conference: “The enthusiasm is making a huge difference.
“We have already given first doses to almost half of all 25 to 29-year-olds in England and only a week after the programme opened to all adults on Friday, one-third of people aged between 18 and 24 have had their first dose.
“To all of the young people who have stepped up, I want to say a huge thank you. You have protected yourself, you have protected your families, and you have protected your communities.”
Mr Zahawi said that more than a million people aged over 50 in England had received their second dose in the past two weeks as he defended the delay to the end of restrictions.
He told the press conference: “Our mission is now to get as many people protected as we can and to protect them as quickly as we can.
“Last week we took the difficult but I think essential decision to pause Step 4 in our road map for four weeks with a review of the data after two weeks – and we will absolutely have that review and share the data with the nation.
“We’re going to use these four weeks to give our NHS that bit more time so we can get those remaining jabs in arms of those who really do need them.”
The minister added that he was “confident” that 66% of adults could have had two jabs by July 19, which has been earmarked for when all remaining Covid-19 restrictions in England could be lifted.
Mr Zahawi’s optimism about the vaccine rollout comes as latest figures show that six in 10 adults in the UK are estimated to have received both doses.
A total of 31,740,115 second doses have been delivered since the programme began in December last year – the equivalent of 60.3% of all people aged 18 and over.
As of 9am on Wednesday, there had been a further 16,135 lab-confirmed Covid-19 cases in the UK – the highest reported daily toll since February 6.
The Government also said a further 19 people had died within 28 days of testing positive for the virus, bringing the UK total to 128,027.
It comes as ministers face criticism over plans to allow more than 60,000 fans into Wembley Stadium for the European Championship at the same time as lockdown restrictions continue for the public.
Culture minister John Whittingdale defended the Government’s decision of allowing crowds to attend the Euro 2020 semi-finals and final, in the largest gatherings at a sporting event for the last 15 months.
The matches are part of the Government’s Event Research Programme on holding mass events safely, but ministers have so far declined to publish findings from the review.
All ticket-holders for the games at Wembley will need to show evidence of a negative Covid-19 test or proof of two doses of a vaccine.
Mr Whittingdale told BBC Breakfast “now is the right time” to test bigger events and that discussions continue with Uefa over allowing VIPs such as politicians and sponsors to come to the UK without having to quarantine.
But Stephen Reicher, from the University of St Andrews and a member of the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) subcommittee on behavioural science, suggested it would not sit well with the public.
He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “If we live in a society which tells us ‘well, it’s fine for 60,000 people to meet at Wembley’, it’s very hard at the same time to say to people, ‘look, there’s still a pandemic out there, and we’ve still got to be careful’.”