European Union fails to reach twin Covid goals

The European Union has failed to reach its twin goals that 80 percent of healthcare workers and 80 percent of those aged 80 or older be vaccinated against COVID-19 by the end of March.

Statistics released by the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) on Wednesday show that no EU country achieved the goals for both target groups.

Only five countries in the European Union and the European Economic Area (EEA) — the EU countries plus Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway — have administered at least the first vaccine dose to at least 80 percent of those aged 80 and over.

“Monitoring of the COVID-19 vaccine rollout in the EU/EEA shows that the level of vaccine uptake is increasing, yet at a pace that makes meeting the EU targets challenging in most countries,” the ECDC concluded in a technical report released on Monday.

Iceland was most successful with a rate of 98 percent in vaccinating healthcare workers. It also fully vaccinated 88.5 percent of its elderly. Ireland and Malta have administered the first dose to 90 percent, while Sweden and Finland have started vaccinating more than 85 percent of the most elderly.

Three countries — Denmark, Norway and Portugal — were just under 80 percent.

Meanwhile, half of the EU/EEA countries have not yet vaccinated 60 percent of the elderly. One of these is Bulgaria, with 5.1 percent of those over 80 years old vaccinated. Also, no data is available for several countries, including Germany and the Netherlands.

According to the ECDC technical report, there are several reasons behind the missed deadline. Among these, most countries reported challenges related to the supply and delivery of COVID-19 vaccines.

Six countries reported staffing shortages and another six countries reported communication challenges due to misinformation and disinformation around COVID-19 vaccines, which may affect vaccine acceptance. These countries are Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Germany, Romania and Sweden.

Statistics regarding the vaccination uptake among health care workers paint a similar picture. Only four countries achieved the goal set by the European Commission.

Estonia and Hungary reported having vaccinated 100 percent of health care workers with the first dose, while Romania and Spain were both over 90 percent. Hungary also reported a 99.6 percent uptake of full vaccination among health care workers, while Romania was just under 80 percent.

The statistics also show that 86,000,000 doses were distributed to EU/EEA countries by Wednesday, of which 71,200,000 were administered.

Besides the 80 percent goal for the target groups, the European Commission in January also set another target that member states should vaccinate a minimum of 70 percent of all adults by summer.