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COMPARE: Which countries are leading the race to vaccinate in Europe?

Germany and France both set new daily vaccination records this week. Here's how different countries in Europe compare.

COMPARE: Which countries are leading the race to vaccinate in Europe?
People queue outside a vaccination center on April 26, 2021. Photo. Lluis Gene/AFP

After a sluggish start, the pace of vaccination in the European countries covered by The Local’s network has picked up significantly this month, with Germany hitting a daily record 1.1m doses on Wednesday, France a daily record of 566,000 doses on Friday, and Spain now averaging over 300,000 doses a day, 

If you drag the date button at the bottom of the chart below back to the start of vaccinations on December 27th and then move it slowly forward to the current day, you can see clearly how Spain, Germany, and Austria have pushed ahead. 

You can also see how Denmark, the quickest European Union country off the mark in January and February, has lost its lead due to its decision to suspend the AstraZeneca jab on March 11th, and then on April 14th to discontinue its use completely. 

Denmark had also banked heavily on the Johnson&Johnson vaccine, committing to taking 8.2 million doses, making it particularly hard hit by the delay in deliveries of the vaccine.

If you look at the chart below showing total vaccine doses delivered, you can see clearly how the pace has been accelerating, with Germany, France, Italy and Spain each administering about twice as many doses in April as they did in March. 

France, the worst performer among the country’s covered by The Local in January and February, started improving in March, first overtaking Sweden, Belgium, and The Netherlands in terms of per capita doses administered, and then briefly overtaking Germany in early April. 

Until the spurt in vaccinations over the last few weeks, Germany has been steady but unspectacular, ranking in the middle of the countries covered by The Local in terms of the number of doses delivered. 

Denmark still leads in the share of its population that is fully vaccinated, thanks to its decision to keep a relatively short three-week gap between the first and second doses of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines until April 16th, when the gap was extended to six weeks. 

Switzerland has also had a relatively short one-month gap between doses, with the country’s Covid-19 Task Force only recommending on April 21st that the gap be extended to six weeks. 

As a result, more than 11 percent of Denmark’s population is now vaccinated, with Switzerland not far behind. That’s nearly double the share achieved by Denmark’s neighbour, Norway. 

When it comes to the share of the population who have had at least one dose, however, the picture is almost reversed, underlining the impact of national priorities and vaccination strategies. 

The decision of Germany’s Permanent Vaccination Commission on March 4th to recommend extending the gap between the first and second AstraZeneca dose to a maximum of 12 weeks has paid dividends here, with more than a quarter of people in the country having had at least one dose. 

Norway and Sweden have had a six-week gap between doses for the Pfizer vaccine since March, with the Norwegian Institute of Public Health recommending this Friday that the gap be extended to 12 weeks for both the Pfizer and the Moderna vaccines.  

The chart below makes it clear that while the EU took control of vaccine purchasing for most of its member states, countries have different strategies once they receive the deliveries.

While France, Germany, Denmark and Austria began giving the vaccine to all vulnerable groups by the end of February, and Norway in March, Sweden and Spain have kept a tight focus on the elderly who are seen as most at risk. 

One of the factors that helped Denmark achieve its relatively rapid rollout at the start was the high trust in vaccines in the country, an advantage it shared with Norway, Germany and Sweden. 

According to a YouGov study commissioned by Imperial College (which provides the data to the chart below), at the time vaccinations began at the end of December, 53 percent of Danes said they would take a vaccine if given to them that week,  compared to just 19.9 percent of respondents from France. 

Vaccine scepticism among those not yet vaccinated has since then reduced in all 16 countries surveyed except for the United Kingdom (where the slight fall is probably due to a stable number of vaccine sceptics comprising a greater share of those yet to be inoculated). 

When Denmark suspended and then discontinued the AstraZeneca vaccine in mid-March the share of unvaccinated survey respondents who would have a dose that week fell from 72 percent to 65 percent, with smaller falls also seen in Italy, Spain, Germany and Norway. But confidence in the vaccine has since bounced back to 67 percent. 

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COVID-19 RULES

Denmark to offer all over-50s autumn Covid-19 vaccine

As many as 2.5 million residents of Denmark, almost half the country’s population, will be offered an new booster vaccination against Covid-19 this autumn.

Denmark to offer all over-50s autumn Covid-19 vaccine

Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen presented on Wednesday the national plan for a potential new wave of the coronavirus this autumn and winter.

At a press briefing, Frederiksen said that nursing and care home residents, as well as everyone over the age of 50, would be offered Covid-19 vaccination this autumn.

People who live in care homes and others in vulnerable groups will be offered the vaccine from September 15th, with over-50s invited to be vaccinated from October 1st.

A new round of vaccination is part of a broader strategy to avoid shutting down parts of society due to national Covid-19 outbreaks, as seen in Denmark and the rest of the world in 2020 and 2021.

She said that vaccines were to thank for restrictions in winter 2021-22 being less severe than in the preceding year.

“The most important tool is still the vaccines. They showed their value last winter,” she said.

“But we also know that the protection given by vaccines fall off over time and that health authorities expect a new (Covid-19) wave,” she said.

READ ALSO: Covid-19: Omicron subvariant now dominant in Denmark

The director of the Danish Health Authority, Søren Brostrøm, said at the briefing that the decision to offer vaccination to over-50s was based on a “principle of caution”.

The World Health Authority has recommended offering vaccination to people over 60, Brostrøm said.

Danish residents under the age of 50 will be offered a vaccine if they are vulnerable or in risk groups for serious illness with Covid-19.

The vaccines from Moderna and Pfizer will be used in the Danish vaccination programme, as was the case in 2021.

Existing Covid-19 vaccines are known not to protect with high effectiveness against infection with the Omicron variant, but do reduce the severity of illness if it is contracted.

“One of the things we have learned with the new variants Omicron, ed.] is that the vaccines are not particularly good at preventing infection. We’ve learned something here,” Brostrøm said.

But their ability to reduce the severity of disease means that, by vaccinating a large part of the population, Denmark can avoid a “large wave of illness,” he said.

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