European Union pulls ahead of US in Covid-19 vaccinations

NEW YORK (NYTIMES) – The 27 member states of the European Union altogether have now administered more coronavirus vaccine doses per 100 people than the United States, in another sign that inoculations across the bloc have maintained some speed throughout the summer, while they have stagnated for weeks in the United States.

EU countries had administered 102.66 doses per 100 people as of Tuesday (July 27), while the United States had administered 102.44, according to the latest vaccination figures compiled by Our World in Data. This month, the EU also overtook the United States in first injections; currently, 58 per cent of people across the bloc have received a dose, compared with 56.5 per cent in the United States.

The latest figures provide a stark contrast with the early stages of the vaccination campaigns this year, when EU countries, facing a shortage of doses and delayed deliveries, looked in envy at the initially more successful efforts in the United States, Britain and Israel.

But the European Union is now vaccinating its populations at a faster pace than most developed countries. More than 70 per cent of adults in the bloc have now received at least one dose of a coronavirus vaccine.

Ursula von der Leyen, president of the European Commission, said the achievement put EU countries “among the world leaders.”

“The catch-up process has been very successful,” she said in a statement Tuesday.

As inoculation campaigns in many US states have been marred by widespread anti-vaccine sentiment, EU countries have been able to immunize their populations with less pushback.

Around 75 per cent of residents in the bloc agree that vaccines are the only way to end the coronavirus pandemic, according to a public survey conducted across the EU in May.

Furthermore, 79 per cent said they intended to get vaccinated “sometime this year.” Yet the spread of the Delta variant has added new urgency. Cases have soared in countries such as the Netherlands and Portugal, and hospitalizations have increased in France and Spain, among others, driving officials to try to speed up vaccination campaigns that have slightly slowed in recent weeks.

“Countries have tried in the first half of the year to stretch the interval between the first and the second doses, but now they have to reduce it to the minimum, with the shortest possible interval,” Andrea Ammon, director of the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control, said this month.

The center said last week that the Delta variant was now dominant in a majority of countries in the bloc.

Countries including France and Italy have announced new vaccine requirements to try to speed up inoculations, with proof of vaccination or a negative test set to be required to gain access to most public indoor venues. The goal, President Emmanuel Macron of France said in announcing the measures this month, is to “put restrictions on the unvaccinated rather than on everyone.” As campaigns have slightly decreased or plateaued in some EU countries, health officials have also urged younger age groups to get vaccinated.

Countries including France and Italy have announced new vaccine requirements to try to speed up inoculations. PHOTO: NYTIMES

“We have focused a lot on the elderly, and it’s left a very strong perception among younger people that they’re not at risk, or that if they are, it’s very mild,” said Heidi Larson, an anthropologist and founder of the London-based Vaccine Confidence Project, which tracks opinions about immunization across the world.

Vittoria Colliza, a Paris-based epidemiologist at Inserm, the French public-health research center, said that vaccine saturation levels were high among many populations, but that large pockets had yet to even receive one dose.

She added that new lockdown restrictions may have to be reimposed to stem the spread of the Delta variant if immunization fails to keep up.

“They’re increasing already,” Colliza said about inoculations, especially among younger people. “But the fear is that the Delta variant will begin to fully impact our lives by the end of August.”

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