The vast majority of countries in the European Union have reached the end of the first trimester far from the vaccination target of at least 80% of healthcare professionals and residents aged 80 and over – groups most at risk of Covid-19.
According to figures from the European Center for Disease Control (ECDC), on average 60% of the 80+ received a dose of the vaccine in the EU and 36.5% also took the second dose. By the end of March, only 5 members had exceeded 80%: Malta, Ireland, Sweden, Finland and Portugal.
In Bulgaria, the poorest member of the bloc and where vaccination is progressing more slowly, only 5% of the elderly received an injection at the end of March
For comparison, in the UK, the most advanced European country in vaccination, more than 99% of those over 80 have already received one dose and half of them have also received the second, according to the ONS (National Statistics Department).
Protecting older groups is essential to reduce the strain on the healthcare system, as among them the percentage of those who develop serious illnesses is much higher. It is also in this group that Covid-19 causes proportionately more deaths.
For healthcare professionals, it is difficult to accurately assess the performance of the EU, as only 12 countries provided data. On average, 47.5% of doctors and nurses were protected, and only four countries exceeded the target of 80%: Hungary, Estonia, Romania and Spain.
If the European Commission (executive power of the bloc) is at the center of the battle – accused of not having delivered the vaccines to its members in sufficient numbers and at a sufficient rate – the responsibility to send the doses to the arms of the population falls with the national states, and in this way lie the greatest obstacles.
ECDC data shows that in the vast majority of countries at least 1 in 5 doses received are still in stock – in Bulgaria, the Netherlands and Luxembourg the share is 1 in 3. In part, this Vaccine “surplus” is also due to the intention to maintain a reserve for the second dose.
The care is explained by the successive reductions in shipments, mainly from AstraZeneca. In the first quarter, of the 90 million promised by the company, only 30 million were sent.
In total, however, with the increased production of Pfizer / BioNTech, more than 90 million doses of immunizers have been distributed to EU members, of which less than 75 million have been injected.
At the start of the year, shortly after the vaccines were approved by the EMA (European regulatory agency), several countries skated to organize the storage, transport and distribution of ampoules, mainly of the Pfizer immunizer, which requires deep freezing.
Since it lasts a few days in common refrigerators, the risk of wastage increases if the calculation of the number to send to each location is not accurate. The problem arose in Belgium, for example, where vaccination centers were left empty due to planning errors.
Over the past week, Belgian regional governments created a registry for those who wanted to take the remaining doses during the day at night – 50,000 people accessed the site as soon as it started and another 20,000 spent the night online trying get a password. .
Even countries that planned months in advance ended up being delayed by their own decisions.
In Denmark, for example, the government controls precisely what dose of which vaccine will be given to which resident, in which center and at what time – and this guarantees it the head of vaccination in the EU.
But by the end of the quarter, the Scandinavian country had fallen to tenth position, among other reasons because it had suspended the use of the AstraZeneca product more than once, first because it considered that the data on the ‘effect in the elderly were lacking, then to investigate side effects.
The second stoppage occurred last month, after reports of rare strokes in Europeans who received the AstraZeneca immunizer. Of the 21 members who suspended the vaccine, 19 have resumed its application – some only for the youngest – but Denmark and Norway are still not administering it.
The European Commission says the situation is set to change in the second half of the year, with the delivery of 300 million doses, more than three times that received from January to March. Given that 55 million were purchased from Janssen, requiring only one dose, that total would protect 185 million people.
If the plans come to fruition, the European bloc would reach the end of the first half of the year with 235 million people fully vaccinated, just over half of the EU’s adult population, according to estimates. The calculation takes into account the orders of the four products already approved: AstraZeneca, Pfizer, Moderna and Janssen.
We still needed to vaccinate nearly 80 million people to reach the goal of 70% of adults protected by the end of the summer – a number that it is believed would give more security to resume activities without fueling the population. contagion and overloading hospitals.
This will require additional efforts on the part of countries to set up a vaccination network – unlike developing countries, like Brazil, many Europeans do not have a structure in place for mass vaccination campaigns.
In Germany, Europe’s largest economy, this week alone, three months after the start of vaccination, the doses will also be applied in 35,000 general clinics across the country.
The country is concerned about vaccine skepticism, especially after inconclusive and sometimes conflicting information about AstraZeneca.