Europe Threatened With Delta Now Faces Slower Vaccination Rates
(Bloomberg) -- Germany’s health minister stepped up his plea for as many people as possible to get a Covid-19 shot amid signs the vaccination drive across Europe is losing steam.
Jens Spahn made the call on Wednesday as the spread of the delta variant threatens to spark a new wave of virus infections throughout the European Union. There are signs that other countries, including France, Italy, Switzerland and Austria, are also struggling to maintain the pace of shots.
The slowdown suggests a growing risk that developed countries, including the U.S., could fall short of the vaccination rates needed to achieve herd immunity. The situation is being made worse because the delta strain is more transmissable than previous versions of the coronavirus.
Daily case rates are already at the highest in five months in the U.K. There’s also been a sharp pickup in countries including Spain and Portugal, and governments across the EU have stepped up warnings about delta as well as the need to get inoculated.
“The virus can kill you, the vaccine is there to save you, so don’t hesitate,” Jean-Baptiste Lemoyne, France’s junior minister for tourism, said on Franceinfo radio on Wednesday.
In Germany, the rollout of shots -- which accelerated rapidly after a sluggish start -- appears to be starting to flag. Since May, it had been administering more than a million on several days each week, but last week only managed that on Wednesday.
Spahn said as well as inoculating people in dedicated centers, doctors’ offices and at work, Germany must make vaccines more easily available in places like public markets and sports clubs.
“Maybe we could have a ‘vaccination weekend’ for Germany to really reach everybody, and then we will achieve a high rate,” he said on DLF radio.
In France, authorities have been raising the alarm about the delta variant for the past two weeks, with Health Minister Olivier Veran warning that a fourth wave could hit France as soon as the end of July.
The alarm jolted people into getting vaccinated, after the rate dropped in recent weeks, and the government is also mulling mandatory shots for healthcare workers.
Italy’s Covid Emergency Czar, Francesco Paolo Figliuolo, said Tuesday that the country needs to step up efforts to encourage people in their 50s, particularly teachers, to get vaccinated.
Portugal has also been trying to accelerate its inoculation campaign after reporting rising Covid cases during June.
“We have a fight against time, between the capacity of the virus to differentiate itself and our capacity to vaccinate,” Prime Minister Antonio Costa said Tuesday.
In Austria, the Vienna city council is offering walk-in vaccinations this week and targeting younger people with inoculations at live music events. The number of first vaccine doses administered each week across the nation has fallen to less than half the peak pace in May.
Greece’s new case rate is at the highest in more than a month, and the country has experienced a drop in daily vaccination numbers. The government has already offered a prepaid card worth 150 euros ($177) to young adults in order to encourage them to get their first dose.
Spahn said there is plenty of vaccines available in Germany to also inoculate children and teenagers, and they will all be able to get their first shot by the end of August at the latest.
“Whoever is not vaccinated this fall and winter will very likely get infected,” he said in a separate interview with ARD television. “If Germany and Europe want to get out of this pandemic, we need a high rate of vaccination.”
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