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Boris Johnson has hailed passing a “significant milestone” in the battle against Covid-19 after the UK hit its target of offering all adults over 50 a first vaccine dose ahead of schedule.

All those classed as clinically vulnerable as well as health and social care workers have now been offered a life-saving injection — two days before the government‘s initial target of 15 April.

The milestone was reached as the total number of people in the UK to get a first jab rose to 32,190,576, with the figure for second doses at 7,656,205.

With priority cohorts 1-9 milestone reached, the Joint Committee on Vaccine and Immunisation will soon set out its final advice for the completion of the programme, expected to begin this week with those in their late 40s.

In a statement, Mr Johnson said that they remained on course to offer a first jab to all adults in the UK by the end of July.

“We have now passed another hugely significant milestone in our vaccine programme by offering jabs to everyone in the nine highest risk groups,” he said.

“That means more than 32 million people have been given the precious protection vaccines provide against Covid 19.

“I want to thank everyone involved in the vaccine rollout which has already saved many thousands of lives.

“We will now move forward with completing essential second doses and making progress towards our target of offering all adults a vaccine by the end of July.”

NHS England chief executive Sir Simon Stevens said 19 out of 20 over 50s had now received a first jab.

“Thanks to our NHS nurses, doctors, pharmacists, operational managers and thousands of other staff and volunteers, the NHS Covid vaccination programme is without a doubt the most successful in our history,” he said.

“It’s one of our tickets out of this pandemic and offers real hope for the future.”

The announcement comes despite an earlier warning by the NHS in England of a “significant reduction in weekly supply” during April, meaning volumes for first doses would be “significantly constrained”.

Throughout the current month, the health service has prioritised second doses of the Pfizer and AstraZeneca vaccines with a record 475,230 people receiving their second jab on Saturday.

Chris Hopson, chief executive of NHS Providers, which represents NHS Trusts, said it had been an “incredible achievement”.

“While there is still a way to go with our vaccination programme, we welcome the progress being made, with the jabs due to be rolled out to the over 40s this week and all priority groups now offered a first dose,” he said.

“We urge everyone to take their Covid-19 vaccine when they are offered it.

“We owe a huge debt of gratitude to NHS staff and volunteers on the frontline, as well as health leaders, undertaking this huge logistical challenge to help protect us from the virus.

“As we return to pub gardens and sports activities and make our way back to non-essential shops, we must continue to do all that we can to prevent the spread of infection and ensure this lockdown will be the last.”

Additional reporting by Press Association

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