The UK has just 39 days to vaccinate 14 million people in a "race against time" as a top NHS doctor warns a "huge acceleration" is needed and the Army has been called in.

In a Downing Street briefing broadcast live on Thursday evening, the Prime Minister gave an update on the UK's coronavirus vaccination programme.

Nearly 1.5 million people have now been vaccinated against coronavirus in the UK, Boris Johnson said, including 1.26 million in England.

Simon Stevens, the NHS England chief executive joining Mr Johnson for the briefing, said the number of Covid-19 patients in hospital is growing "very, very rapidly" with an increase of 10,000 since Christmas Day.

NHS England chief executive Simon Stevens
NHS England chief executive Simon Stevens says the 39-day goal is "challenging"

"The pressures are real and they are growing," he warned.

"There's nobody more motivated to deliver a vaccination programme speedily than the staff of the health service because they are living, day by day, the tragic consequences for patients and families and colleagues of not having coronavirus under control."

This week Mr Johnson said the almost 15 million people who make up the four top priority groups in the UK will be vaccinated by February 15 – if the NHS is able to hit its targets.

More than 1.3 million Brits have received the coronavirus vaccine so far

This includes all care home residents and workers, everyone over 70 and people deemed "extremely clinically vulnerable" to Covid-19.

Mr Stevens said it was a "very challenging but hugely important goal" which, if successful, could prevent the "vast majority" of Covid-related deaths.

"We've made a strong start to our vaccination programme, but there's no complacency because frankly we need a huge acceleration if we are, over the next five weeks, going to vaccinate more people than we typically vaccinate over five months during a winter flu programme," he said.

A total of 1,162 people died of Covid-19 in the UK on Wednesday

The plan over the coming 39 days revolves around three essential components: expanding the UK's supply of vaccines, "more places doing the jabbing" and expanding the number of people and partnerships helping the NHS to get the job done.

Mr Johnson said the Government was "throwing everything at it around the clock" and is working with the Army to ensure the vaccines are delivered efficiently around the country.

"We are in a race against time," he said.

Boris Johnson addressed the nation from Downing Street on Thursday evening
Boris Johnson said the nation is in a "race against time" to get people vaccinated

He also promised no Brit will need to travel more than 10 miles to reach a vaccination site, and said every elderly care home resident will be offered a vaccine by the end of January.

The briefing was held as the Government released its daily death toll which was 1,162 — over 100 more than the previous day, which itself set a grim new record.

Almost 1.5 million Brits have received a vaccine so far, with GPs currently rolling out the Oxford-AstraZeneca jab in addition to the Pfizer-Moderna.

British hospitals are now seeing 50 percent more coronavirus inpatients than at the peak of the first wave back in April.

The Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine, which can be stored at room temperature, is now being rolled out in care homes

There are currently enough vaccines in the UK for all 15 million people to receive a jab, but they are not all yet in a state for the NHS to administer it due to safety check requirements.

Seven "giant" mass vaccination centres are expected to open in the coming week.

The Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine, which can be stored at room temperature, is now being rolled out in care homes.