Hans Kluge urges ramping up of manufacturing and asks governments to share excess shots
Europe’s vaccination campaign is “unacceptably slow” and rising infection rates in most countries across the continent mean its coronavirus situation is “more worrying than we have seen in several months”, the World Health Organization has said.
After France announced tougher restrictions nationwide and Italy extended its curbs until the end of the month, the WHO regional director, Hans Kluge, said on Thursday that new cases in Europe had surged from fewer than 1m a week to about 1.6m a week.
“Vaccines present our best way out of this pandemic,” Kluge said. “Not only do they work, they are highly effective in preventing infection.” However, he said, the slow pace of their rollout on the continent was “prolonging the pandemic”.
Kluge said falling infections among the over-80s in Europe showed the impact of vaccination on the spread of the virus, while data from the UK’s campaign suggested vaccines had so far “saved, at the very least, over 6,000 lives among people over 70”.
But he said that across the WHO’s Europe region, made up of 53 countries including Russia and several central Asian nations, only 10% of people had received one dose and 4% were fully vaccinated, while barely 60% of lower- and lower-middle-income countries in the region had started inoculating.