COVID-19 Pandemic

Coronavirus: E.U. vaccine drive picks up pace while U.S. stalls

Published : July 31, 2021 13:37 IST

The E.U.'s vaccination drive is picking up speed, but disparities remain among the 27 member states. Photo: Lionel Urman/abaca/picture alliance

The E.U. is now inoculating faster than the U.S. But figures suggest that both have some way to go to hit their targets.

The E.U.'s once-faltering vaccine rollout has now overtaken that of the United States, The New York Times reported on July 29, citing figures compiled by Our World in Data. But figuring out who is ahead in the race to protect their citizens from COVID-19 depends largely on how one crunches the numbers.

The U.S. newspaper pointed to data released on July 29 showing that the bloc had administered 103.32 doses per 100 people, compared to 102.67 in the United States. It shows that the E.U.'s vaccination drive has certainly picked up pace after initially being hindered by supply and distribution problems.

What is the overall picture of the vaccination drive?

Our World in Data's figures, however, show the bloc is still slightly behind the United States when it comes to the percentage of adults who have had both jabs. U.S. authorities have fully vaccinated 48.9 per cent of those eligible to receive a coronavirus vaccine, while the E.U. has fully vaccinated 47.7 per cent.

Furthermore, there are disparities among E.U. countries in terms of the pace of their rollouts, further complicating the overall picture. Germany has fully vaccinated 50.6 per cent of those eligible for a jab, while Bulgaria has managed just 14.6 per cent.

Despite the apparent speeding up of the E.U.'s inoculation program, many countries are also worried about uptake among young people. Several countries have introduced so-called vaccine passports that will be mandatory to enter bars, restaurants and cultural events.

What was the E.U.'s target?

The E.U.'s stated vaccination goal has changed over the past six months. According to a statement posted on the European Commission website in January, the original plan was to ensure that "by summer 2021, member states should have vaccinated 70 per cent of the entire adult population."

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said on July 10 that the EU executive had delivered enough doses to E.U. governments "to vaccinate fully at least 70 per cent of E.U. adults still this month." On July 27, von der Leyen said 70 per cent of adults across the bloc's 27 countries had received at least one dose. But figures compiled by Our World in Data put the number at 58.3 per cent.

The numbers cited by von der Leyen appear to refer to the E.U.'s official tally. According to the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control COVID-19 vaccine tracker, 70.4 per cent of adults across the E.U. have received at least one dose.

What about the United States?

The United States failed to meet President Joe Biden's goal to deliver at least one COVID-19 vaccine shot to 70 per cent of adults by July 4. Our World in Data says 56.7 per cent of the U.S. population has had at least one jab; inoculations are handled at state level.

For coronavirus, the estimated threshold for herd immunity is roughly 70 per cent "to go back to a pre-pandemic lifestyle," a paper by Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health said in April. "We would need at least 70 per cent of the population to be immune [achieve herd immunity] to keep the rate of infection down," the paper said.

Herd immunity can be achieved through vaccinations or by falling sick and building up sufficient antibodies to fight off future infections. It means both the United States and the European Union are still short of achieving that goal.

Late on July 29, Biden expressed his concern about the pace of the rollout. He called on state and local governments to provide $100 (€85) payments to incentivize Americans to receive both doses of a coronavirus vaccine.

jf/sri (AP, Reuters)

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