Six EU states have now completely inoculated a larger share of their total population with a coronavirus vaccine than the UK, after the bloc’s disastrous initial deployment took off as Britain’s impressive early jab rate collapsed.
According to government and health services figures compiled by the online scientific publication Our World In Data, Malta, Belgium, Spain, Portugal, Denmark and Ireland have all surpassed the UK in terms of percentage of their populations fully immunized.
While the hugely successful UK campaign had to slow down first as it ran into harder-to-reach and more vaccine-hesitant groups, the rate of decline is dramatic: the UK is currently administering a fraction of the daily doses from some EU states.
France administered 368,596 first doses and 261,695 second doses on Wednesday, for example, while UK totals were 33,304 and 165,669, respectively.
The EU-27, whose campaign has been hampered by repeated early stumbles, delays and shortages, is picking up arms faster than most developed countries, while also adopting tough tactics to keep turnout high .
The data will put pressure on Boris Johnson’s government to restart a program that started out as one of the fastest in the world but is now running out of steam, with 57.3% of the population fully vaccinated and 69% partially vaccinated.
Vaccination rates are increasing only very slowly across all age groups in the UK, but the low participation rate in the 18-29 cohort – mainly due to the perception that young people are not at risk – is marked and alarmed the ministers. Among those aged 18 to 30, an estimated 33% have not yet received their first injection.
According to figures, Malta had fully vaccinated 88% of its total population by August 4, with 91% having received at least one dose. Belgium is on 61% fully stung and 70% partially; Spain at 60% and 70%; Portugal on 59% and 70%; Denmark on 58% and 73%; and Ireland on 57.4% and 68%.
The gap appears likely to widen further as several EU states – while their deployments have also slowed since June – are still administering the first and second doses much faster than the UK, whose first dose rate in particular fell.
The Netherlands are already ahead of the UK for the first doses; while others, including France, are on track, according to current trends, to overtake Great Britain on second doses shortly. According to Our World In Data, the seven-day moving average of daily doses per 100 people in the EU27 is currently 0.56 injections, almost double the rate of 0.28 in the UK.
Some EU states are vaccinating faster than the bloc average, and much faster than the UK: Denmark, for example, maintains a seven-day moving average of 0.97 daily dose per 100 people; France 0.82; Belgium 0.80; Portugal and Ireland 0.77; Spain 0.73 and Italy 0.72.
With a population similar to that of the UK, France makes an interesting point of comparison. According to the VaccinTracker website, which uses government data, France has so far administered 43.3 million first injections and 36.1 million seconds.
This means that 65.1% of the French population has received at least one dose and 54.3% are fully vaccinated (a slightly higher percentage than that of Our World In Data, because France considers people who have recovered from Covid fully vaccinated after one dose).
Both figures remain lower than the UK equivalents of 69% and 57%, respectively – but France administers the first doses at nearly 10 times the rate of Britain and the second doses at nearly double the rate.
With the rapid spread of the Delta variant adding a new urgency to its slowed-down vaccination campaigns, France is one of many countries in the EU to have adopted the kind of coercive tactics aimed at boosting adoption among shy groups. in the face of vaccines, including young people, which the UK government has so far seemed reluctant to consider, although there may be restrictions on entering nightclubs from September.
Last month, President Emmanuel Macron unveiled his plan for a “health pass,” with proof of vaccination or a negative test required to access public events and places such as cinemas and museums.
From Monday, adults will also need the pass to travel to cafes and restaurants or take a long-distance train – a measure that will be extended to 12-17 year olds in September. Unvaccinated high school students will also need to return home if a case of Covid-19 is diagnosed in their classroom, while vaccinated students can stay in school.
While the French government’s strategy sparked sometimes violent protests, drawing around 200,000 people to the country’s streets last Saturday, opinion polls show it enjoys broad majority support.
More importantly, since the announcement of the health pass, the daily vaccination rate in France has nearly doubled, with nearly 8 million people having received their first vaccine in the past six weeks. 7 other appointments are reserved for August.
Denmark, Italy, Greece and, more recently, Germany have all adopted or offered similar strict incentives to get vaccinated, while several EU countries have also boosted uptake by opening up their vaccination offerings. to everyone over 12 years old – some since mid-June.
France, Spain and Italy have all recently reported first-dose vaccination rates of up to 40% in the 12 to 17 age group. Britain, on the other hand, did not say until Wednesday that it would soon start expanding its vaccine offer for people over 16.
Non-EU countries, including the United Arab Emirates, Singapore, Bahrain, Uruguay, Chile and Canada, fare better, in terms of the percentage of their populations who have received at least one dose, than the UK and most EU states except Malta.
The big-stick approach of EU governments, combined with a lowering of the age limit for vaccinations, follows the dismal first months of the bloc’s campaign, a rapid rise as supply grows improved from April, then a steady decline since June.
In March, as the rollout of the vaccine in the UK progressed, the World Health Organization compared it unfavorably to that in Europe, which it criticized as “unacceptably slow”.
After choosing not to compete with each other but to buy en bloc, the 27 first agreed that the European Commission – without any experience of such a vast public health purchasing effort – should take charge of their collective order. .
The commission, however, took time to obtain a mandate from all members, and more time on lengthy negotiations with vaccine manufacturers. Then the EU regulator, the European Medicines Agency, took the time to approve the vaccines.
Then AstraZeneca, from whom the block had ordered 300 million doses for the first two quarters of 2021, did not deliver more than a fraction, and rare blood clotting problems have led several countries to suspend use. vaccine, shaking public confidence.
Since then, however – thanks mainly to the arrival of a huge supply of Pfizer / BioNTech vaccines in April – the EU vaccination campaign has resumed. “The catching-up process has been very successful,” commission chairman Ursula von der Leyen said last week.
Success, however, is far from equal across the bloc: poorer member states like Romania and Bulgaria, with poorer public health services than richer neighbors like Germany and the Netherlands. Bas, are in difficulty, with barely 26% and 15% of their populations vaccinated with at least one dose.