As European countries face their third wave of COVID-19, the World Health Organisation (WHO) has criticised European leaders for their “unacceptably slow” vaccine rollout.
According to the WHO, over 16 million people contracted the virus last week in the region. This means that the number of new cases in Europe increased for the sixth consecutive week.
The WHO points out in its statement that just five weeks ago, the number of cases had fallen to below a million. Now, the region is facing the most worrying situation its seen in months.
Increases were seen in every age group, except for those in the over-80s category, many of whom have been vaccinated, showing the impact of immunisation in the population.
Furthermore, it says the UK, which launched its vaccination campaign in December and has administered over 30 million doses so far, has potentially saved the lives of 6,000 over-70s.
Currently, the EU’s vaccination figures show that only 10% of people in the region have had their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, and only 4% have been fully immunised.
In every high-income country, vaccination efforts have started. However, in low to middle-income countries, this number falls to just 60%.
Vaccines are highly effective at preventing infections. The WHO commented that the EU’s delays in distributing and providing vaccines could end up prolonging the pandemic.
The statement says that “variants of concern” are spreading, whilst the “strain on hospitals grows”. It adds, “As long as the coverage remains low, we need to apply the same public health and social measures as we have in the past, to compensate for delayed schedules.”
Worldwide, nearly 578 million doses have now been administered. Almost half of these were given in the US, UK, and the EU/EEA. The WHO is now calling on countries to protect populations that haven’t received the vaccine to reduce the strain on healthcare systems.
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