THE Sun’s Jabs Army campaign smashed its target of recruiting 50,000 volunteers to help Britain’s biggest-ever vaccine programme.

Thanks to our big-hearted readers, our goal was achieved in just an astonishing 18 days — with 51,019 signing up by last night.

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They hit the milestone on the day the first Jabs Army volunteers went on duty to help those getting the Covid vaccine in North London.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock hailed Sun readers for “smashing the target” as our Jabs Army mission was accomplished.

On a momentous day for the campaign, we achieved the goal of helping the Royal Voluntary Service supply 50,000 volunteer stewards to the NHS vaccination programme.

Mr Hancock recorded his thanks during yesterday’s coronavirus pandemic press conference.

He told the watching nation: “People are helping by being a community volunteer or signing up for clinical trials — 50,000 people who have now signed up for The Sun’s Jabs Army. Smashing the target in the battle against this disease.

“I want to thank each and every one of you and The Sun newspaper for leading this effort.”

Prime Minister Boris Johnson heaped praise on Sun readers for their generosity and spirit.

He said: “Congratulations and wholehearted thanks to The Sun for smashing through your target and enrolling more than 50,000 people to join the Jabs Army.

“It’s a great credit to your readers. Vaccinating the country is a huge national effort but with your help we will get there.”

By last night 51,019 people had signed up. to pledge 12 hours a month working for free at vacination hubs.

We hit our milestone on the day the first Jabs Army volunteers went on duty at a medical centre in north London — including Sun reader and gran Susan Jones.

Furloughed from her job on the tills at Primark, Susan, 63, said of her first shift as a steward: “It’s been truly amazing. It’s a lovely thing to do, if you can help people. I’d rather be here helping defeat this virus than sitting at home.”

Susan was a welcoming face acting at Hornsey Central Neighbourhood Health Centre’s entrance.

She added: “I greet people at the door, take their temperature, give them hand gel, check if they’ve got an appointment and get them to fill out a form. I reassure them and pass them to the next volunteer.”

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In the coming months thousands more volunteers will be called up to help out at NHS-run centres as every adult gets their Covid-19 jab.

Catherine Johnstone, chief executive of the Royal Voluntary Society said: “From the bottom of my heart, thank you to The Sun and your incredible readers. Reaching the 50,000 milestone in under three weeks is something we hoped for, but could never have predicted.

“I’ve been overwhelmed by the selflessness and generosity of Sun readers who have stepped forward.”

‘Huge thanks to each and every one of you!’

By Victoria Newton, Editor in Chief of The Sun

I HAVE always known Sun readers are the most kind-hearted people in Britain.

When the pandemic struck you responded — as you always do — with generosity, energy and, above all, ­compassion.

It was in this spirit that, on New Year’s Day, we launched The Sun’s Jabs Army.

Along with our partners, the NHS and the Royal Voluntary Service, we asked for 50,000 people to step forward and volunteer to help the vaccine roll-out.

Just 18 days later and you’ve done it.

Today, I am pleased to report, on these pages, that as of last night an astonishing 51,019 of you have now signed up and are standing by to be called up in the coming days and weeks.

It is a fantastic achievement for which I thank each and every one of you wholeheartedly.

No newspaper had ever before recruited so many of its readers to help Britain in its hour of need.

At a time when thousands of you have lost loved ones and millions more have lost money and jobs, Sun readers still give up their time for others.

I, and everyone at the paper, are proud of every single one of you.

Our Jabs Army will be on duty at centres all over the country, playing a vital part of the incredible vaccination programme — the biggest in NHS history.

Today we feature Sun volunteers in North London, one of whom, Susan Jones, summed up our campaign in a sentence: “I’d rather be here helping defeat this virus than sitting at home.”

Hear hear! And we are not finished with our campaign.

Our volunteers will be needed until everyone in Britain has had a jab.
But before that day comes we may need more volunteers as part of a Reserve Army, ready and waiting to be called up if need be — so it is not too late for you to sign up. We’ll let you know how to do that very soon.

With our Jabs Army working tirelessly with the hard-working NHS and support staff to deliver the vaccine, the day will come soon when we can get Britain back to the way we were before coronavirus turned our lives upside down.

You have been so caring since the first wave of coronavirus struck last spring and hospitals were swamped with cases.

You helped raise £1million for NHS charities through our Who Cares Wins Appeal, to bring comfort to hard-pressed medical staff.

Then, when the coronavirus crisis affected supplies of tiny blankets for sick and premature babies in hospitals, you came to the rescue.

After we printed a pattern in The Sun on Sunday, our readers knitted 10,000 baby blankets, which the charity Bliss will deliver to hospitals all over Britain.

At Christmas we teamed up with the Royal Voluntary Service, Together coalition and the NHS to ask you to call on neighbours, make check and chat calls to the lonely and run errands for people shielding.

You signed up in droves — causing a 70 per cent spike in volunteer numbers — to provide comfort when it was needed most.

The Sun is proud to be part of your lives, bringing out a paper or producing news stories online to keep you up to date with every twist and turn of the battle to beat the virus.

Together we can help beat this.

Thank you.

NHS chief executive Sir Simon Stevens said: “Thank you to each and every Sun reader who has pledged their time to supporting the NHS in what is the biggest, fastest and most important vaccination programme in our history.

“We’re off to a great start, delivering 140 doses a minute, and with more vaccines being made available to the NHS over the spring and summer too. Those volunteers not needed right now will be able to play a key role in helping NHS teams protect millions more people in weeks and months ahead.”

Our volunteers pledged to give a total of 600,000 hours a month. If the vaccination programme goes on until September they will have committed to 4.8million hours, all free.

Sun columnist Jane Moore, who experienced being a volunteer at the mass vaccination centre at Epsom racecourse said: “A huge thanks to all of you who have signed up. Your country needs you.”

Stars including Prue Leith, Gary Lineker, Shirley Ballas, Matt Lucas, Gordon Ramsay, Piers Morgan and Susanna Reid hailed the Jabs Army.

Sun royal photographer Arthur Edwards, 80 — one of the first to be vaccinated — said: “The Covid jab is the best present you can give anyone at the moment. I'm delighted our amazing readers will be there to help make the experience as smooth as possible.

“They will be a part of Britain’s history and in years to come they can tell their kids and grandchildren ‘I was in the Jabs Army’.”

Britain’s biggest firms backed our campaign. Bosses at BT, Morrisons, British Airways, Paddy Power, Sky TV urged staff to be volunteers. Recruitment to the Jabs Army is now closed. But the Royal Voluntary Service is planning a Reserve Army. More details will follow soon.

The Sun Says

BRITAIN needed 50,000 volunteers to staff the vaccine rollout — and in just 18 days The Sun found them.

We are immensely proud that our Jabs Army total hit the magic 50k yesterday.

We salute every one of you who has stepped forward. Health Secretary Matt Hancock paid you his own tribute before a TV audience of millions yesterday.

In years to come you’ll be able to tell your families the vital part you played in conquering our gravest threat since World War Two. But our Jabs Army campaign is not stopping there.

You can still join the reserve list . . . and may well get your call-up!

By last night 4,062,501 Brits had been jabbed — a fantastic effort and evidence that vaccinators everywhere are going as fast as they possibly can.

Everywhere, that is, except Labour-run Wales, where bungling First Minister Mark Drakeford is going slowly to make his vaccine supplies last. We can only pray OAPs don’t die of Covid because he held their jab back.

He must change course — because the rest of the rollout so far is a triumph The Sun is delighted to be playing our part in.

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said: “The success of the vaccine roll-out is vital to secure our economy, protect our NHS and rebuild our country.

“After a year of tough restrictions, we all long to reunite with loved ones and return to normal life.

“Every one of us needs to do our bit to get there, so it is wonderful to see so many people support this campaign in the national effort to vaccinate Britain.”

Call to arms – how MPs, celebs and big businesses backed our campaign

A HOST of celebs and politicians threw their weight behind Jabs Army as they praised kind-hearted Sun readers who signed up.

Their calls were led by Boris Johnson, who begged for volunteers to help 'return the country to normal life'.

The PM wrote personally to our readers, saying: "The Sun’s Jabs Army campaign is a brilliant example of the power of collective action.

"It has already inspired companies and workplaces up and down the country to join the call to arms.

"So today, I call on everyone who has the time to join the legions of volunteers already signed up and to boost volunteer numbers further still."

Jeremy Clarkson urged Brits to get off the sofa and sign up to beat the lockdown blues.

He said: “Everyone is saying how bored they are. They’ve watched Netflix, gone through everything on the internet, read Google.

“Well let’s not be bored — let’s get off our bottoms and volunteer.”

His call was backed by a string of other celebs – including the Duchess of York Sarah Ferguson, who hailed our campaign as “fantastic”.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock saluted Jabs Army as he addressed the nation in a No10 press briefing.

He said: "Come and be a part of it. The Sun’s Jabs Army is marching and helping the nation.”

GMB host Piers Morgan branded the campaign as "excellent".

While celebrities like Bear Grylls, Gordon Ramsay and Bake Off's Matt Lucas have also thrown their support behind the campaign.

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