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UK hits COVID-19 vaccine milestone with 75% of adults inoculated

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By Euronews with AP
FILE - Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson gestures after receiving the first dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine in London, Friday, March 19, 2021.
FILE - Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson gestures after receiving the first dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine in London, Friday, March 19, 2021.   -   Copyright  Frank Augstein/AP
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Three out of four British adults have received at least one dose of a coronavirus vaccine, the UK government said Wednesday.

The Department of Health said that 75.2% of people 18 and over in the country have received a shot, and 49.5% are fully vaccinated after two doses.

One of the world's leading countries for coronavirus vaccinations, Britain is racing to inoculate all adults and curb a more contagious delta variant of the virus.

The new strain, which was first detected in India, now accounts for the majority of new cases in Britain.

Despite the successful vaccine rollout, the travel industry warned on Wednesday that the UK risked international isolation by failing to open up its borders.

The World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) accused the government of an "overcautious approach" and called for all fully vaccinated Britons to be able to travel freely to other countries with vaccination levels similar to the UK.

The UK has recorded almost 128,000 coronavirus deaths, the highest toll in Europe.

A mass vaccination campaign that started in December has brought new infections and deaths down sharply, but confirmed cases are once again rising.

On Wednesday, the UK reported 4,330 new infections and a 35% increase over the past seven days.

Yet daily deaths remain low. On Tuesday, Britain reported no new daily COVID-19 deaths for the first time since July last year.

'Pandemic of misinformation'

British Health Secretary Matt Hancock called the 75% milestone a big step forward, but he warned that “a worldwide pandemic of misinformation” threatened the vaccination campaign.

“The speed of misinformation is a deadly threat,” Hancock said at an international meeting organised by Britain to encourage vaccine uptake.

Britain’s government has faced strong criticism for missteps in handling the pandemic, including hesitation about putting the country into lockdown in March 2020 and testing failures that saw people with the virus released from hospitals to nursing homes, where thousands of residents died.

But its vaccination campaign has been widely praised. Britain secured early contracts for multiple vaccines — four of which have been approved for use — and has used medics, soldiers and volunteers to give more than 65 million doses at thousands of sites.

Success factors

Hancock said Britain had bolstered vaccine confidence by using “trusted voices” — including naturalist David Attenborough and Queen Elizabeth II — to disclose that they had received a shot and to deliver a pro-vaccine message.

He said another key factor was ensuring the process was fair, by giving vaccines first to the elderly and those at most risk, then moving down the age groups in an orderly way.

“We Brits love queuing,” Hancock said. “And there’s nothing more upsetting than someone jumping the queue.”