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Tuesday, May 30, 2023

Vaccine stampede in UK, issues with vaccine rollout in Europe

Vaccine rollout in Europe has a bumpy ride hitting several roadblocks along the way. Things have been looking up only in the last one month or so after initial delays caused by the production and distribution of vaccines. Vaccine hesitancy has been another issue faced by European nations thereby hitting vaccine rollouts in these countries.

Even after the rollout, things aren’t as smooth as many would like to believe. Recently, there was a stampede in one of the UK’s (United Kingdom) vaccination centers with many being turned away after the center ran out of vaccines. Many waited for more than an hour and a half before being told that the vaccine wasn’t available. Apparently, the officials weren’t fully prepared to meet the demands.

The European Union (EU) had been authorized by all 27 member countries to negotiate and purchase the vaccines on their behalf. Not only were there supply problems but the EU was slower than the UK in negotiating a contract with AstraZeneca. The EU is also concerned the UK has had an unfair advantage in contracts it signed with vaccine manufacturers, some of whom have plants in the EU. It must also be mentioned that the EU has faced supply or production and distribution problems with AstraZeneca, Pfizer-BioNTech, and Moderna.

A BBC report quotes EU President Ursula von der Leyen as saying “we were late to authorize. We were too optimistic when it came to massive production and perhaps too confident that what we ordered would actually be delivered on time”.

Even though the European Medicines Agency (EMA) approved the use of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine for all age groups a number of EU countries initially didn’t recommend its use for those above 65 years of age. 13 European nations, including Germany and France that had approved the use of AstraZeneca in early March this year, put the rollout of the vaccine on hold in March following reports of blood clots due to the vaccine.

The EMA has also been doing flip-flops on the AstraZeneca vaccines thereby causing delays in vaccine rollout. The BBC report says:

Most countries restarted it after the EMA said there was no evidence that the vaccine caused the clots.

However, on 7 April the EMA said there was a “possible link” between the vaccine and the clots. The agency concluded that neither age nor gender was a clear risk factor and it is still recommending the jab for all age groups.

Nevertheless, several EU countries, including France, Germany, and the Netherlands say only people over 55 or 60 should get the jab, while others like Denmark have suspended its use altogether.

A drop in confidence among Europeans with regards to the AstraZeneca vaccine has led many Europeans to consider it unsafe. Apart from the safety factor, there have also been issues of shortfalls for which the EU is set to sue AstraZeneca. The UK had approved the Pfizer vaccine in November, three weeks prior to the EU and yet it seems to be having vaccine shortages in its center.

Germany has also been prioritizing vaccine jabs for the elderly (60+), those with previous illnesses, and based on the person’s profession. Germany will lift its vaccination prioritization scheme on June 7, making all citizens older than 12 years eligible to receive a Covid-19 jab, Minister of Health Jens Spahn announced.

Europe was also faced with vaccine hesitancy which has affected its vaccine rollout plans. A Forbes report says vaccine hesitancy is worse than the US in the EU. The article also points out that there has always been an anti-science sentiment in Europe leading to EU residents finding it difficult to trust the vaccines.

Most nations are faced with vaccine hesitancy, supply shortages, and have also been prioritizing groups that must receive the vaccine jabs first beginning with frontline workers and then opening up for senior citizens and those with illnesses.

It is essential to point out that by 28 May, 245 million doses had been administered across the EU. By the same day, Bharat had administered 203 million doses. Bharat is not lagging far behind considering the resources the EU has at its disposal as compared to us.

(With IANS inputs)

(Featured Image Source: Money Control)

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