EU fails to achieve March vaccination target

The EU has fallen short of vaccinating 80% of health care workers and people over the age of 80 against Covid-19 by the end of March, thus not fulfilling the target set by the Commission, dpa reported.

Figures published by the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) show that no country in the EU achieved this goal. Only 56.7% of over 80-year-olds and just over 60% of health care workers had received a first vaccine shot on EU average, figures show. And the number is even lower for those who were fully vaccinated: Only 27.4% of over 80s and 47% of health care workers received their second jab.

The EU is racing to ramp up its sluggish vaccination campaign to save thousands of lives. Older people are generally at a higher risk of dying from Covid-19, while health care workers are more exposed to contracting the virus because of their profession.

Despite an EU-wide effort to distribute jabs evenly across the bloc, vaccination rates vary widely. In Bulgaria, for example, the rate of over 80-year-olds who received a first jab was reported at a mere 5.1%. In contrast, Malta reported 95.3% and Ireland 94.1%. Much of this gap can be explained by the Member States prioritising different groups in the vaccination programmes. Bulgaria, for example, does not prioritise inhabitants who are older than 80 years of age; only 0.7% of this group had received their full vaccination in that country.

Vaccination rates for health care workers equally diverge: Hungary is the frontrunner, reporting having fully vaccinated essentially all of its health care workers. This stands in stark contrast to Denmark's 10.4%.

The majority of Member States, however, did not provide the vaccination rate for health care staff, making an overall assessment difficult. Germany is one of the countries that does not report its data to the ECDC. A spokesperson for the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) for disease control said a national vaccination rate could not be provided as only nine out of the 16 German states had reported them. Aside from different vaccine strategies, several countries have complained about not having sufficient doses available for their population. 

The commission on Tuesday, however, seemed to blame the individual governments for not having achieved the goals it set. "A sufficient quantity has been delivered" to cover these target groups, commission spokesperson Dana Spinant told reporters on Tuesday. By the end of the week, 107 million vaccine doses will have been delivered to the EU, Spinant said on Wednesday.

More on this subject: Coronavirus

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