Vaccines have been administered to the majority of the population, with 86 percent of adults having had a first dose and 64 percent fully immunised, according to the latest Government data published on July 5. Prime Minister Boris Johnson has hailed the “massive success” of the vaccine rollout and defended his roadmap plans as just a “cautious approach”.
While some scientists and health experts are concerned about the reopening amid a spike in cases of the Delta variant first identified in India, the UK’s vaccine success is sure to have a helping hand in easing the transition.
The UK is, arguably, at the stage of reopening as the importance of vaccine uptake has been drummed in for more than six months, leading to a high uptake and inevitably another step towards normality.
The latest information from Our World in Data suggests the UK’s rollout is the most successful in Europe as the only country with more than 70 percent of citizens with a first dose.
Germany, Spain and Portugal lag behind as their toll stands between 50 and 60 percent for first doses, alongside Italy, Austria, the Netherlands and Belgium.
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Lagging further behind them is France, with a low uptake of between 40 and 50 percent, standing alongside Poland, Czech Republic and Switzerland.
In terms of the lowest levels uptake, it’s concentrated towards eastern Europe and Russia.
Ukraine’s vaccination rate for first doses stands between one and five percent, while Belarus’s isn’t much better between five and 10 percent.
Bulgaria, North Macedonia and Albania have vaccinated between 10 and 20 percent of citizens, while Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina are somewhere between one and five percent.
Europe is racing to accelerate its vaccination rollout following a surge in cases of the Delta variant.
Portuguese health authorities this week reported a “vertiginous’ rise in the variant, which accounted for a small four percent of cases in May before jumping to almost 56 percent in June.
Reports of new infections in Russia more than doubled in June, topping 20,000 per day this week as reported by Euro News, with deaths hitting 679 on Friday – the fourth day in a row the record was broken.
These numbers have triggered alarm across the entire continent, not just in the administrations of European Union member states.
The Dutch Government is extending its vaccination rollout to those aged 12 to 17 in an effort to help ward off a new surge.
Greece is offering young adults monetary compensation in the form of €150 (£128) in credit after their first vaccine, while Poland last week launched an exclusive lottery open only to adults who are fully vaccinated.
Portuguese officials have extended the hours of vaccination centres, created new walk-in clinics, called in armed forces personnel to help run the operation and reduced the period between doses from 12 weeks to eight.
In a stark warning, Dr Hans Kluge, the head of the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) Europe Office, cautioned that the Delta variant is poised to become dominant in the 53-country region he covers by August.
Dr Kluge noted that some 63 percent across this collective or countries hasn’t even had a first jab.
He added: “The three conditions for a new wave of excess hospitalisations and deaths before the [autumn] are therefore in place: New variants, deficit in vaccine uptake and increased social mixing.”