More than 5,000,000 people in the UK have now received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, according to latest government figures.
A total of 5,383,103 have had the first jab, with another 466,796 people so far also receiving their second inoculation against the virus.
It comes after the UK reported another 1,401 coronavirus deaths and an additional 40,261 infections on Friday. The total number of deaths in the UK is now 95,981.
The R number – the average number of secondary infections produced by a single infected person – currently stands at between 0.8 and 1, with a daily infection growth rate range of -4% to -1%, the figures show.
However, Matt Hancock warned: “In the meantime, everyone must follow the rules to protect the NHS and save lives, and we can do that safe in the knowledge that the tide will turn and that, with science, we will prevail.”
Meanwhile, Professor Anthony Harnden, deputy chairman of the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), has insisted the government is “on track” to hit its goal of reaching 15 million people with vaccines by mid-February.
He said the daily figures on the numbers vaccinated – which showed a dip earlier this week – “are often unrepresentative of the overall trend”.
Speaking to ITV’s Good Morning Britain, he added: “We often get vaccine supplies, for instance, in our own practice midweek and immunise at the end of the week, so I think it’s much better to look at a weekly trend, rather than the daily figure.”
He said the UK is in a “dire situation” at the moment and insisted that delaying the second dose of vaccines by up to 12 weeks is the right thing to do.
The history of using other vaccines has shown that “one dose often offers really good protection”, he said.
He added: “For instance, the HPV vaccine, initially was licensed for three doses; we’re now thinking about giving it as one dose.
“And there are lots of examples of this, it is biologically completely implausible that the protection (from one dose) will suddenly drop off after three weeks.
“And so, from a public health perspective, an emergency perspective, this is the right thing to do.”
It comes after the percentage of people testing positive for COVID-19 in England has decreased slightly, according to ONS figures.
About one in 55 people who were not in care homes, hospitals or other institutional settings had the virus in the week ending 16 January.
In the last full infection survey published two weeks ago, one in 50 people had the virus.