70% of adults in the EU fully vaccinated against COVID

The vaccination rate in Slovakia is the third-lowest in the EU, after Romania and Bulgaria. [Halfpoint / SHUTTERSTOCK]

More than 256 million adults in the EU are now fully vaccinated against COVID-19 as the rate among the adult population reached 70% on Tuesday (31 August), which the European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen called “a great achievement”.

“The EU’s strategy of moving forward together is paying off and putting Europe at the vanguard of the global fight against COVID-19,” von der Leyen said.

Stella Kyriakides, the Commissioner for health and food safety, also said she was very pleased that “as of today we have reached our goal to vaccinate 70% of EU adults before the end of the summer”.

She added that this is a collective achievement of the EU and its member states, which “shows what is possible when we work together with solidarity and in coordination”.

Some might take more than a year to recover from COVID, study finds

One-half of COVID-19 patients discharged from a hospital in Wuhan, China, still experience at least one persistent symptom after 12 months, a study in the Lancet medical journal has shown. Its authors say that this needs to be considered when planning post-pandemic healthcare services.

Not yet time to relax

As the threat of new variants remains, the Commission is promising to continue ensuring the availability of vaccines, including adapted vaccines. 

“Our efforts to further increase vaccinations across the EU will continue unabated. We will continue to support in particular those Member States that are continuing to face challenges,” Kyriakides said.

She warned that  “the immunity gap” and “the door for new variants” need to be closed.  “To do so, vaccinations must win the race over variants.” 

On 20 May the Commission signed a contract with BioNTech-Pfizer, which foresees the delivery of 1.8 billion doses of vaccines between the end of the year and 2023. For the same purpose, the Commission has also exercised the option of having 150 million doses of the second Moderna contract. 

EU countries have the possibility to resell or donate doses directly to countries outside the EU in need of vaccines or through the COVAX Facility. Based on Our World in Data information, only 1.7% of people in low-income countries have received at least one dose.

Is it time for COVID-19 booster shot?

It has been around eight months since the first COVID vaccine was authorised in the European Union. As vaccination uptake among adults is nearing 70%, a new debate on whether a COVID-19 booster jab might be necessary is taking place across member states.

The importance of sharing vaccines

Von der Leyen also stressed the need to share vaccines. “We need to help the rest of the world vaccinate, too. Europe will continue to support its partners in this effort, in particular, the low and middle-income countries.”

The EU has exported about half of the vaccines produced in Europe to other countries in the world, as much as it has delivered for its citizens. EU and member states contributed close to €3 billion for the COVAX Facility to help secure at least 1.8 billion doses for 92 low- and lower-middle-income countries.

Currently, more than 200 million doses have been delivered by COVAX to 138 countries.

In addition, the plan is also to share at least another 200 million doses of vaccines secured under the EU’s advance purchase agreements to low and middle-income countries until the end of 2021, in particular through COVAX, as part of the EU’s vaccine-sharing efforts. 

WHO sounds alarm over rising COVID deaths in Europe

The World Health Organisation warned Monday (30 August) that 236,000 more people could die from COVID in Europe by December, sounding the alarm over rising infections and stagnating vaccine rates across the continent. Hungary, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Czechia, North Macedonia and Bulgaria are among the countries with the highest mortality.

[Edited by Zoran Radosavljevic]

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