Ursula von der Leyen, the president of the European Commission, said on Sunday that the European Union has delivered enough coronavirus vaccine doses to member-states to reach the target of fully vaccinating at least 70 percent of adults in the bloc by mid-July.
However, the EU is still far from meeting its goal of fully inoculating 70 percent of adults as, according to recent data compiled by the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC), the percentage of fully vaccinated Europeans aged 18 or older now stands at 44.2 percent. This lag is significant because the very contagious Delta variant is spreading at a frightening rate across Europe (according to ECDC figures, the Delta variant is responsible for more than 30 percent of Covid-19 cases).
Last Monday, von der Leyen expressed her concern at the fact that “more and more vaccine doses are being left unused,” adding that it is certainly “linked to vaccination hesitancy.” The Commission chief said that “the struggle is on to keep up a high pace of vaccinations as we reach the more and more skeptical part of the population.”
In the United States, where 48 percent of the population is fully vaccinated (58.8 percent of people 18 years and older), there has been a steep decline in the number of daily vaccinations: from around 3.5 million doses in mid-April to around 500,000 doses currently.
The Delta variant first surfaced in India, a developing country that manufactures vaccines for the whole world, particularly the poorer countries. India was forced to stop exports as it tried to tackle a lethal surge in local infections last spring. Nevertheless, only 5.1 percent of the Indian population is now fully inoculated against Covid-19.
The situation is even more dramatic in Africa. Infections rose for a seventh consecutive week last week, making it the worst since the outbreak. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), only 66 million vaccines had been delivered to the African continent by July 8. Less than 2 percent of Africa’s 1.37 billion people have been fully vaccinated.
Even countries (like the EU) that were not directly responsible for the extremely inequitable distribution of vaccines by banning exports were still indirectly responsible, as they ordered more than they needed. On top of being unfair, this discrepancy will prolong the pandemic and increase the likelihood of new mutations with greater vaccine resistance.
Regrettably, it seems inevitable that the political priorities of the governments in the developed world will mean that the number of adults, as well as children, getting vaccinated in the West in the autumn will exceed that of doctors and vulnerable individuals receiving the shots in poorer countries.