All adults getting their first Covid vaccine jab by May is “beyond what is possible”, England’s chief medical officer Chris Whitty has said.
Speaking at the Downing Street press conference on Wednesday, the top adviser said despite the UK having an “extraordinarily fast” vaccine programme, the timetable floated by some inside government was not realistic.
There had been reports that all adults could have got their first coronavirus jab by May and their second by August.
Underlining that the supply of vaccines was still unpredictable, Whitty said: “Optimism is a great thing, but logistics aren’t about optimism – they are about simply what you can get through in the right kind of order.
“The numbers by May and August strikes me as at the very optimistic end.
“I think if you talk to people who are doing this extraordinarily fast rollout [...] they would say they will go absolutely hell for leather [...] but trying to hit those dates, that is probably beyond what is possible.”
It came as the government confirmed that more than 10 million people in the UK have received their first dose.
England’s chief medical officer also offered a glimmer of hope that lockdown restrictions could soon be lifted as he confirmed the UK is now past the peak of the current wave and on a “downward slope” of coronavirus cases, hospitalisations and deaths.
“I think that most of my colleagues think we are past the peak,” he said.
“Now that doesn’t mean you could never have another peak. But, at this point in time, provided people continue to follow the guidelines, we’re on the downward slope of cases, of hospitalisations and of deaths, in all four of the nations of the United Kingdom.
“So I think, we do think, at this point – this peak, at least, we are past.”
Prime minister Boris Johnson told the same press conference that the government believed March 8 was the “prudent” date to begin reopening schools in England.
He said that it was three weeks after the most vulnerable groups should have received the vaccine, by which time immunity should be setting in.
“What we don’t want to do now that we are making progress with the vaccine rollout and we have got a timetable for the way ahead, we don’t want to be forced into reverse,” he said.
“We think this is the prudent and cautious approach. I think it is much better to stick to that.”