9th Dec 2021

EU missed March vaccination target for priority groups

  • Hungary tops the EU's coronavirus vaccination race - with nearly all health workers fully-vaccinated (Photo: Sanofi Pasteur)

The European Union failed to reach its target of having at least 80 percent of the elderly (aged 80 and above) and 80 percent of healthcare professionals vaccinated against Covid-19 by the end of March.

Data released by the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control, an EU agency, showed that vaccination rates have sped up in many members states, but figures are still far below that 80-percent goal.

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During the first quarter of 2021, members states received 107 million vaccine doses - of which 89 million have been administrated.

As of Friday (2 April), the median vaccination uptake of the first dose among those aged 80 years and above was nearly 57 percent, and full vaccination with two doses was 30 percent (figures correspond to 23 member states).

For healthcare workers, the numbers show a nearly 63-percent uptake of the first dose and 50 percent of the second dose (figures from only 11 reporting countries).

Hungary tops the EU's coronavirus vaccination race, thanks to a strategy that includes the shots approved by the EU as well buying those developed by Russia and China.

Nearly all health workers (99 percent) in Hungary have been fully vaccinated, according to the EU agency.

Additionally, Romania, Spain, Estonia and Ireland have fully vaccinated more than 60 percent of their doctors and nurses.

Last week, the Italian government announced that all healthcare professionals must get vaccinated against Covid-19, facing up to a year of suspension without pay if they refuse to get the jab.

The announcement comes after the discovery of clusters of infections in hospitals where staff had refused to get the vaccine.

Meanwhile, Malta and Denmark lead the EU in vaccinations of the elderly - with more than 50 percent of those aged 80 and above being fully vaccinated.

End of June?

According to the latest estimates, leaked to Bloomberg last week, only 55 percent of the EU population will be vaccinated by the end of June.

However, the figures also revealed significant disparities among member states.

Malta expects to have 93.1 percent of its population vaccinated by the end of the second quarter and Denmark follows next with a 79.8 percent forecast.

But a few members states, whose vaccination strategy heavily relied on AstraZeneca, are lagging.

EU ambassadors agreed last Thursday on a "solidarity" mechanism that will allow all member states to vaccinate at least 45 percent of their population by the end of June.

As a result of that, Estonia, Latvia, Croatia, Slovakia, and Bulgaria will receive 2.85 million additional doses from the advanced 10 million vaccines from Pfizer/BioNtech.

While 19 member states will receive the pro-rata of 6.66 million vaccines, Austria, the Czech Republic and Slovenia will get the pro-rata of the 10 million vaccines.

Austria, which has vocally criticised the bloc's vaccine distribution system, is expected to have more than half of its population vaccinated by the middle of the year.

Last month, European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen stressed that vaccination rates in Europe are rising, insisting that the EU will reach its goal of vaccinating 70 percent of the adult population by September.

EU sharpens vaccine export tool, amid third wave

The UK seems to be targeted as it has received 10m vaccines since January from the EU but has not exported back. Several EU countries are cautious about the tighter curbs fearing it could harm global supply chains.

Vaccine export 'ban' row heats up ahead of EU summit

"This is not about banning vaccine exports, this is about making sure that companies deliver on their commitments to the member states and the EU that are inscribed in contracts," commission spokesman Eric Mamer said.

Hundreds of thousands log on for 'spare' Belgian vaccinations

On Tuesday Belgium launched a new website, QVAX, where people who are not yet vaccinated or have no appointment to be vaccinated, could register in case 'spare' appointments come up. Brussels will start it's own system mid-April.

WHO warns mandatory vaccination 'absolute last resort'

Mandatory vaccination has become a hot topic in the EU, but the European branch of the World Health Organization has warned that it should be "an absolute last resort". Children, meanwhile, account for the highest infection-rates across the continent.

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