The World Health Organization has criticized vaccination programs in Europe for being “unacceptably slow” as many countries grapple with spikes in COVID-19 cases.
Hans Kluge, who is the WHO’s regional director for Europe, said the pace of the vaccine rollout there has prolonged the pandemic in the region.
“Vaccines present our best way out of this pandemic… However, the rollout of these vaccines is unacceptably slow,” he said Wednesday in a statement.
“We must speed up the process by ramping up manufacturing, reducing barriers to administering vaccines, and using every single vial we have in stock, now,” he added.
He said he feared that the arrival of vaccines had already led the public to believe that the health crisis was over.
“The risk of ongoing vaccination providing a false sense of security to authorities and the public alike is considerable – and that carries a danger,” Kluge said.
However, only a small portion of the regional population has been vaccinated.
So far, only 4 percent of Europeans have been fully vaccinated against the virus, while around 10 percent have received at least one dose, the agency said.
The low vaccination rates come as 50 countries or territories have detected the highly-contagious UK variant, which has contributed to outbreaks in the region.
New waves of cases have prompted at least 27 countries to issue full or partial lockdowns.
Kluge called on Europeans to follow public health measures as the countries work to ramp up their vaccination supply.
“The greatest determinant of how many people get infected and how many people die in the coming weeks is what you as an individual do – or don’t do. We have seen it time and time again: virus spread can be stopped,” he said.