Vaccination Drives: As countries are racing towards vaccinating their population against Covid-19, Europe is off to a sluggish start, even though the European nations are experiencing soaring infection rate. European Union is coordinating strategy and procuring vaccines in bulk for the bloc nations, but at the end of day the member states are the ones who decide for individual vaccination drive. The EU Commission on Friday has agreed to buy an additional 300 million doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech’s Covid-19 vaccine. This will provide EU with Pfizer’s half global output for the year 2021.
Vaccination drive has begun for various European nations. Let’s explore how it’s progressing in individual patches.
Germany’s scientists developed the very first Covid-19 vaccine – a definite point of national pride. But being an election year, vaccine and vaccination campaign has become more of an issue of political battleground. Recent surveys show that majority of German population is comfortable to get vaccinated. Vaccination drive in Germany began less than two weeks ago and by the weekend over 500,000 first doses of vaccine had been administered, with priority being given to people over 80 years and care home workers. But opposition party and coalition members is blaming Angela Merkel and her health minister Jens Spahn, the duo who have done a remarkable job till now in pandemic handling, of not utilizing the various vaccination centres.
Germany shares 56 million doses of the EU order. Till now 1.3 million doses have been delivered and by end of month additional 2.68 million doses are expected to arrive. Germany has also ordered 30 million doses extra after recent Moderna approval by EU. Merkel’s government is sticking to its initial pledge of completing vaccination drive by summer end.
France has always boasted its remarkably big and effective health apparatus, but it has been exposed in a bad taste as the nation is off to a rather sluggish start of vaccination campaign against Covid-19. The nation has administered just 45,500 doses by Friday, a remarkably low number when compared to Germany, rendering it statistically nominal and meaningless.
The slow start in France is confusing and questionable, specially with more than Pfizer vaccine doses waiting in the cold storage. The prime reason appears to be the centralized and cumbersome health bureaucracy in France – 45 page dossier of instructions must be read by staff at care homes to understand vaccination drive. This is to be followed by informed consent through doctor consultation, no less than five days before receiving vaccine. Another problem in France is the high scepticism among people against vaccine.
A lot is at stake for Macron’s government, with opposition calling vaccine delay a “state scandal”.
In December, national pride and medical urgency pushed Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine rollout, even as the vaccines were under trial. Initially, Sputnik was being offered to the priority group of healthcare and education workers, but the list quickly expanded for the eligible groups for the first dose.
But despite national pride a big riding point in Russia, polls by Levada Centre showed that only 38% of priority group respondents were willing to get the vaccine. Early bold claims around vaccine are the main reason for increased and widespread nervousness and scepticism about getting vaccinated in Russian population.
Sweden performance has been praiseworthy. Its slow infection rate is attributed by many to its no-lockdown policy, but still a vaccination drive is crucial. Despite the nation being almost two weeks into its vaccination programme, there is no official data available as of how many people have been vaccinated till date. The Public Health Agency of Sweden says that the process of compiling data is underway from nation’s 21 regional health authorities, that are vaccinating the entire adult population by 26th June. The date isn’t random but marks Sweden’s biggest annual public holiday weekend.
As Europe is witnessing massive spike of coronavirus cases and a rampant variant on a spread, a rapid and effective vaccination programme across nations becomes more important than ever.