EU’s vaccine rollout has been ‘unacceptably slow’, WHO says

Only 5.6% of the EU’s population have had their first vaccine shot (Picture: AFP/Reuters)

The EU’s Covid vaccination campaigns have been ‘unacceptably slow’ and risk prolonging the pandemic, the World Health Organisation has said.

Only 5.6% of the bloc’s population have had their first vaccine shot, compared to 46% in the UK.

The WHO’s regional director for Europe, Dr. Hans Kluge, said: ‘As long as 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.’

He warned European governments against having ‘a false sense of security’ for having started their immunisation campaigns, noting that the continent remains the second-most affected region in the world in terms of infections and deaths.

The WHO said new Covid-19 cases are increasing in every age group except those over 80, in a sign that vaccination efforts are having an impact in slowing outbreaks.

But the U.N. health agency said ‘early action’ to stop the virus’ spread must be taken in the absence of high immunisation rates.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen has come under fire for the bloc’s slow rollout (Picture: Reuters)

Faced with rising hospitalisations that were overwhelming hospitals in Paris and elsewhere, French President Emmanuel Macron imposed new measures to combat a resurgence of the virus, including a three-week school closure and a domestic travel ban.

The WHO says there were 1.6million new cases and nearly 24,000 deaths in its European region last week.

So far the EU has counted over 612,000 virus-related deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University.

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If other European nations like Britain, Russia, Switzerland and others are counted, Europe has seen over 928,000 virus deaths during the pandemic.

‘The region’s situation is more worrying than we have seen in several months,’ said WHO Europe’s emergency manager Dr. Dorit Nitzan, who warned people not to travel or gather in large groups over the coming religious holidays.

He added: ‘Many countries are introducing new measures that are necessary and everyone should follow as much as they can.’

Kluge said his message to European countries was that ‘now is not the time to relax measures’.

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