Volunteers are trained by St John Ambulance instructors in the correct use of PPE during their Covid-19 vaccine delivery course at Manchester United Football Club on January 30, 2021 in Manchester, England.
Christopher Furlong | Getty Images News | Getty Images
When coronavirus vaccines were developed, tested and approved for emergency use in record time, millions of people waited longingly for the protection and safety they offered.
But about nine months after vaccination began rolling out in the West, some national and nationwide vaccination campaigns in the US and Europe have slowed.
This slowdown, coupled with slow absorption in some areas, worries experts. Especially since many Covid prevention measures have been relaxed and cases are increasing both in the USA and in parts of Europe.
“The stagnation in vaccine uptake in our region is a matter of serious concern,” said Dr. Hans Kluge, WHO Regional Director for the WHO European Region, in a press release last week.
“Now that public health and welfare policies are being relaxed in many countries, public acceptance of vaccination is vital if we are to experience higher levels of transmission, more serious diseases, an increase in deaths and a greater risk of new varieties of vaccination Concern arise, want to avoid. “
He said there had been 64 million confirmed cases and 1.3 million deaths in the region, which includes 53 countries stretching from Western Europe to Russia and surrounding countries. Kluge added that 33 countries in the region had reported an increase in their 14-day incidence rate of more than 10%.
“This high transmission is deeply worrying – especially given the low vaccination intake in high-priority populations in a number of countries,” said Kluge.
“In the past 6 weeks, vaccination uptake has slowed in the region, influenced by the lack of access to vaccines in some countries and the lack of uptake of vaccines in others. So far, only 6% of people in lower and lower middle income countries in our region have completed a full series of vaccinations. “
The picture in the US and Europe
Vaccination programs started at different speeds in both Europe and the US late last year. While the UK and US quickly began vaccinating the elderly and healthcare workers, the EU’s initiative has been slower due to late orders, delivery bottlenecks and disputes over clinical data (mainly with AstraZeneca vaccination) that hampered the progress of some introductions in the EU.
However, these teething troubles have largely been ironed out, and the majority of adults and adolescents in the US and Europe are now fully vaccinated.
According to the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control, 69.2% of adults in the EU are currently fully vaccinated (although the European Commission announced last Tuesday that it had achieved its target of 70% of the adult population Vaccinate the EU).
In the UK, 79.8% of those over 16 are fully vaccinated and in the US, 62% of the population over 12 are fully vaccinated, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Short-term and pressurized vaccination of millions during a public health crisis is an undeniable feat, but as vaccination campaigns have progressed, it has slowed in a number of countries, figures from Our World in Data show.
The sharp slowdown in vaccinations in early summer led the US to meet President Biden’s goal of delivering a dose to 70% of all adults by July 4 a month later, with the milestone being reached on August 2 instead. The failure was mainly attributed to younger adults, between 18 and 29 years old, not coming forward for their shots.
“The country has more to do … especially with 18-26 year olds,” said Jeffrey Zients, White House chief adviser on COVID-19, in late June when it became clear the target would be missed. “The reality is that many younger Americans felt that Covid-19 was not affecting them and they were less concerned about getting the injection.”
There was also a lower (and slower) uptake among young adults in Europe, which in turn was attributed to a more relaxed attitude among young people towards Covid. They are at much lower risk of hospitalization and death than the elderly, and the reopening of societies this summer seems to have taken away the incentive for some to get vaccinated.
As vaccination progresses in the US, vaccination rates have become more diverse in the US, which vary widely across the country, with the southern states tending to lag behind their northern counterparts. Some states have been encouraged by the president to offer monetary incentives to attract people to an opportunity.
Slowing vaccination rates is worrying as it can spread the virus. This in turn could create new variants that could weaken the effectiveness of the existing Covid vaccines.
The USA has been experiencing the spread of the highly contagious Delta Covid variant since this summer. It was particularly virulent in low-vaccination states such as Louisiana, Idaho and Mississippi, where the state’s chief health official said in early August that the virus was sweeping the state “like a tsunami”.
Vaccination refusers remain
Experts say there is not a single reason for vaccination slowdowns as vaccine supplies are not currently an issue in the US or Europe.
While younger people may not feel an urgent need to get vaccinated, others are still opposed to vaccines because of concerns about the long-term safety of rapidly evolving vaccinations. This is despite the fact that health authorities and experts advocate Covid vaccinations as “astonishingly effective”.
As vaccination drives progress, those who oppose vaccination are likely to become more noticeable, an epidemiologist told CNBC.
“My gut feeling is that it’s a combination of the obvious – considering how much better vaccine uptake was everywhere compared to what polls expected in the early days (remember some of the dire predictions from the US and France ?), we can now stick with the remaining objectors who might be tough objections because of their age group and their beliefs, “Danny Altmann, professor of immunology at Imperial College London, told CNBC on Tuesday.
There are big differences in the acceptance and reluctance of Covid vaccines in the US and Europe. Vaccine uptake is traditionally high in the UK and Spain, a factor that has facilitated Covid vaccination programs, while France has seen much greater reluctance to adopt the Covid vaccine.
Immunization rates currently vary widely across Europe, with Eastern and Southern European countries, Russia and its neighbors all lagging behind their Western European counterparts.
According to Morning Consult’s latest vaccine tracking survey, which conducts over 75,000 weekly interviews in 15 countries on the introduction of the Covid vaccine, reluctance to adopt Covid vaccines remains highest in Russia and the US.
The latest data based on surveys conducted between August 17th and August 8th. 23 (and 45,604 interviews conducted in America) showed that Russia and the USA still have the highest anti-vaccination rates of all the countries examined. About 31% of Russians said they weren’t ready to get the Covid vaccine (and another 16% weren’t sure if they should get it) and 18% of Americans surveyed weren’t ready to get the vaccine, more 10% were unsure.
Millions of people in other countries now have no choice as to whether or not to receive a Covid vaccine. Although 40.3% of the world’s population received at least one dose of a Covid-19 vaccine, only 1.8% of people in low-income countries received at least one dose, according to Our World in Data.