All adults in the UK will be offered their first dose of a coronavirus vaccine by the end of July, the prime minister has pledged.
More than 17 million people have been given a jab since the UK’s Covid vaccine rollout began in December 2020.
But Boris Johnson said he now wants the programme to “go further and faster”.
He said the July target would allow vulnerable people to be protected “sooner” and would help to further ease lockdown rules across the country.
NHS England chief executive Sir Simon Stevens said there were “early signs” the vaccine rollout was contributing to a fall in hospital admissions.
The PM is due to hold a final meeting with senior ministers about how to ease England’s lockdown later, before he sets out the full “road map” on Monday.
A speedy rollout of the vaccine to all vulnerable people is seen as critical to reducing the pandemic’s death toll and relieving pressure on the NHS.
The government’s previous target was to offer all adults the first dose by September.
The new plan means that by 15 April, all adults aged 50 and over, as well as younger people with underlying health conditions that put them at higher risk, should have been offered a jab.
However, the order of priority for under-50s has yet to be outlined by the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI).
The speedier rollout of the vaccine is likely to raise expectations – and pressure – for a swifter unlocking in England, but the government is still talking the language of caution.
Senior ministers will finalise the plan today before it’s presented to the wider Cabinet for approval tomorrow.
It’s unlikely that any restrictions will change before 8 March, when the government hopes to get all children back into schools.
The prime minister has long said that is his top priority.
But it is likely that a small tweak will be made from that date to allow people to meet one other person outdoors for social purposes rather than just for exercise.
A Downing Street source said this would be the beginning of allowing people to meet each other for socialising once again as the government recognised the impact of not seeing loved ones.
It’s understood various options – which could include reintroducing the rule of six – are being considered for the weeks beyond.