Goal met: European Union achieves 70 per cent vaccination among adults

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London: Around 70 per cent of adults in the European Union have been fully vaccinated against the coronavirus, EU officials said, a milestone that puts the bloc among the world’s leaders in vaccinations despite a sluggish start earlier this year and worrying discrepancies among member states.

After a fumbling start, the European Union overtook the United States in vaccinations last month, as rollouts taken together across the bloc’s 27 countries grew at a faster pace than anywhere else in the world. Tuesday’s announcement marked the meeting of a self-set deadline that once seemed far out of reach. In January, the European Commission, the bloc’s executive arm, said that “by summer 2021, member states should have vaccinated a minimum of 70 per cent of the adult population.”

Having met the target means that at least 255 million people have received either two doses of Pfizer, AstraZeneca or Moderna vaccines, or one shot of the single-dose Johnson & Johnson jab, Reuters reported.

Visitors walk past restaurants in the Navigli suburb of Milan, Italy, last month.Credit:Bloomberg

While the vaccination rate slowed last month, it has yet to reach a ceiling that some experts and officials feared it would hit over the northern summer. Taking children and teenagers into account, more than 55 per cent of the overall EU population has been fully vaccinated, compared with 52 per cent in the United States, 61 per cent in Israel, and 64 per cent in Britain.

Those figures, however, mask wide differences between EU countries — ones that the authorities in Brussels may struggle to address because each member country runs its own vaccination campaign.

Malta has fully vaccinated more than 90 per cent of its adult population, data from the European Centre for Disease prevention and Control (ECDC), an EU agency, showed Reuters reported.

Germany a negative COVID test result or proof of vaccination is now required to eat in restaurants, go to the hairdresser and attending sporting events.Credit:Bloomberg

And while more than 80 per cent of adults have been fully inoculated in Belgium, Denmark and Portugal, and more than 75 per cent in Spain and the Netherlands, the figure falls to 45 per cent in Latvia, 31 per cent in Romania and 20 per cent in Bulgaria.

“The pandemic is not over,” said Ursula Von der Leyen, the President of the European Commission, as she celebrated the milestone. “We need more. I call on everyone who can to get vaccinated.”

Some countries, like France and Italy, have implemented strong incentives for people to get vaccinated by requiring COVID passes to dine in restaurants or access cultural venues. (The pass can also be obtained with a proof of a negative test.) Significant parts of the population got vaccinated after the passes came into force, and opposition has remained limited.

Tourists at Blue Lagoon in Comio, Malta, in late July. The country of about half a million people has vaccinated 90 per cent of its adult population.Credit:Getty Images

But it is another story in Eastern European countries that could threaten the bloc’s handling of the pandemic in the fall and winter. In Bulgaria, disinformation about the virus, poor trust in institutions and a lack of a communication strategy to counter vaccine hesitancy have plagued vaccination efforts, including among older people.

Romania, despite low vaccination rates, has had to sell doses to another EU country, Ireland, to avoid wasting them, and donated others to neighbouring countries.

Von der Leyen said the European Union needed to “help the rest of the world vaccinate” but vaccine diplomacy efforts have so far proved limited because of a lack of a coordinated approach from the bloc’s countries to sell or donate doses.

Many countries in the European Union’s immediate neighbourhood, such as Kosovo, Montenegro, North Macedonia and Tunisia, need doses and have among the world’s highest death tolls by size of population.

In a sign of renewed concern about the pandemic, the EU on Tuesday recommended its member states reintroduce travel restrictions for visitors from the United States, Israel, Kosovo, Lebanon, Montenegro and North Macedonia.

The New York Times

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