Vaccinated Europeans outnumber confirmed COVID-19 cases: WHO’s Kluge

More Europeans have been vaccinated against COVID-19 than have been confirmed to be infected, Hans Kluge, the World Health Organization’s (WHO) regional director for Europe, said on Thursday.

“Based on numbers of confirmed cases, 5.5 percent of the entire European population has now had COVID-19, while 7 percent has completed a full vaccination series,” Kluge said in a press release.

To date, some 215 million vaccine doses have been administered in Europe, he said. Approximately 16 percent of the WHO European Region’s population has received the first vaccine dose.

The WHO European Region has so far registered 51,506,373 confirmed COVID-19 cases and 1,076,173 deaths.

Despite the recent decline in new cases, hospitalizations and deaths, Kluge reiterated his dire warning to citizens in the region to be vigilant and remain “conscious of the fact that vaccines alone will not end the pandemic.”

“Without informing and engaging communities, they remain exposed to the virus. Without surveillance, we can’t identify new variants. And without contact tracing, governments may need to reimpose restrictive measures,” Kluge said.

He used the current European Immunization Week (April 24-May 2) to illustrate the importance of vaccines as a guarantee against life-threatening diseases, referencing the 100,000 measles cases that occurred in 2019 as a result of faltering immunization rates in previous years.

“Hard-earned success can slip away fast. That is why I urge you to press hard to maintain high immunization coverage with routine vaccines in the region. We must not loosen our grip on vaccine-preventable diseases,” he said.

Kluge also urged the region’s health systems to provide essential primary health care, including routine vaccinations, while controlling the pandemic.