The rollout of vaccinations against COVID-19 is unacceptably slow, the European head of the World Health Organization said on Thursday, raising concern that delays in giving vaccines could prolong the pandemic as cases of different variants spread.
Only 10% of the population of the region have received one vaccine dose and 4% have completed a full course, Hans Kluge said.
The rollout of these vaccines is unacceptably slow, he said in a statement. We need to speed up the process by ramping up manufacturing, reducing barriers to administering vaccines, and using every single vial we have in stock now.
Europe was slower than Britain and the United States, not only to order vaccines from companies last year, but also in approving them. Even once approved by the bloc, the rates of vaccinations there have largely trailed behind British and U.S. efforts.
Kluge said that new infections in Europe were rising in every age group except those over 80, a sign that the vaccinations that have gone to younger groups are working but that the stuttering rollout leaves younger people vulnerable.
As stress and variants of concern continue to spread, religious holidays are leading to increased mobility, the WHO said in its statement.
In addition to limited supplies, squabbles over exports and delays by some vaccine manufacturers and concerns over the safety of the AstraZeneca Oxford vaccine has also curbed the vaccination momentum.
Some countries are still refusing the British-Swedish company's shots and others, including Germany, are restricting them to people over 60 years old.
Regulators and WHO have declared that the shot's benefits outweigh risks and continue to study the clotting incidents.