The number of Covid-19 vaccine second doses administered in the UK hit a record daily high on Saturday, new Government figures show.
Some 556,951 jabs containing people’s second dose were given on May 22, surpassing April 24 when 547,636 were administered.
The increase comes as the Government continues to urge people to get their second dose in order to stay protected from new coronavirus variants.
Around 60.6 million first and second vaccine doses have now been administered since December 8, according to figures published on Sunday by the Department of Health and Social Care.
It includes 37.9 million people who have received their first dose, 72% of the UK population, and 22.6 million who have had both (43%).
Health Secretary Matt Hancock said: “Shortly after vaccinating over 70% of adults in the UK with a first dose, we have hit yet another incredible milestone with over 60 million doses delivered in total.
“Our trailblazing vaccination programme, the biggest and most successful in NHS history, is another great British success story and a testament to what can be achieved when all four corners of the country comes together to defeat this virus.”
Some 762,361 first and second doses were administered on Saturday, the highest daily combined total since March 20.
The figures comes as the chief executive of the UK Health Security Agency said the possibility of restrictions being eased on June 21 was “looking good”.
However, Dr Jenny Harries urged the public to be cautious to avoid another lockdown, warning that the new Indian variant has become the “dominant strain” in some parts of the country.
She told BBC One’s The Andrew Marr Show: “It’s looking good if people are continuing to observe all of the safety signals, so we should not stop doing what we’re doing, particularly in areas where we have that variant of concern, the B1617.2, in the north-west and around London.
“It’s really important that people continue to do hands, face, space and work from home, have their jabs and go for tests as well.
“The cases of the B1617.2 variant are rising, they have risen very steeply and much of the media have reported a 160% rise in cases over the week period but they seem to be slightly levelling at the moment.
“It’s still very early days.”
Dr Harries added: “We all need to be very cautious and I think we all don’t want to go back to the sort of lockdowns that we’ve had, it doesn’t matter whether you’re on Sage or out in the public, none of us want to return to that sort of restriction.”
From June 21 at the earliest, nightclubs are due to reopen and restrictions on large events such as festivals are to be lifted, as are restrictions on the number of people at weddings.
However, Professor Adam Finn, a member of the Government’s Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation, believed there may be an “adjustment” to the lifting of restrictions on June 21.
Asked how likely it is that measures will be lifted on that date, he told Times Radio on Sunday: “We’re effectively in a race with the vaccine programme against the virus.
“We know that we’re letting the virus out by spreading it about now, we know that we’re progressing well with the vaccine programme, but I think there’s going to need to be an adjustment of some sort.”
A study by Public Health England (PHE) found that the Pfizer coronavirus vaccine is 88% effective against the Indian variant after two doses.
The study, which took place between April 5 and May 16, found that the jab was found to be almost as effective against symptomatic disease from the B1617.2 strain as it is against the Kent variant, with 93% effectiveness.
Meanwhile, the AstraZeneca jab was 60% effective, compared with 66% against the Kent variant over the same period.
Both vaccines were 33% effective against symptomatic disease from the Indian variant three weeks after the first dose, compared with about 50% against the Kent strain.
New data from PHE shows there have been at least 2,889 cases of the Indian variant recorded in England from February 1 this year to May 18.
Of those, 104 cases resulted in a visit to a hospital emergency department, 31 required an overnight hospital admission and six resulted in a death.
The most common strain in England, according to the data, is the Kent variant, with 132,082 cases recorded over the same period.
Some 1,569 people have died with the variant, while 2,011 cases resulted in an overnight hospital admission and 5,238 required a visit to a hospital emergency department.
Separate analysis by PHE indicates that the vaccination programme has so far prevented 13,000 deaths and about 39,100 hospital admissions in older people in England, up to May 9.