July 13 (Reuters) - The daily pace of COVID vaccinations has
increased in about a dozen countries due to the arrival of the
more contagious Delta variant and governments expanding their
vaccination drives, a data analysis by Reuters found.
Israel's rate of vaccinations has seen a sharp pickup. The
Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Saudi Arabia, Singapore and Spain
are all vaccinating at their fastest speed to date. Belgium,
Denmark, Finland and Sweden are not far behind.
But it is a different story in the United States. At its
current, declining pace, 70% of the U.S. population will not
receive a first dose of vaccine until Dec. 1, according to the
Reuters analysis of Our World in Data vaccination figures https://ourworldindata.org/covid-vaccinations.
At the current pace, Canada, Chile, the United Kingdom, and
eight others will reach that benchmark before the end of the
month. And if the current pace is maintained, five more
countries will hit 70% by the end of August. Those dates could
change depending on many factors, including approvals to
vaccinate younger children. (Graphic on vaccinations) https://tmsnrt.rs/2TbE5vy
In Israel the vaccination rate had plateaued in April as new
COVID infections were on a months-long steady decline. But when
the arrival of Delta brought a spike of cases in June, the
government jumped in quickly with a new campaign urging
teenagers to get the shot and parents to vaccinate their
children aged 12 to 15.
In many countries, vaccination drives slowed before reaching
70% or more of the population - a threshold some experts say
could help largely curb COVID-19 transmission through so-called
herd immunity, when combined with people who developed immunity
following an infection. (Graphic on global vaccinations) https://tmsnrt.rs/3tUM8ta
The ability of the coronavirus to mutate quickly into new
variants, such as Delta, that reduce the effectiveness of
vaccines has cast doubt on whether herd immunity can be
achieved. However, various governments have still set national
vaccination goals close to that number to encourage citizens to
get inoculated. The European Union, for instance, has
distributed enough vaccines for 70% of its population.
In some places, regulators have just recently authorized use
of the shots in 12 to 15 year olds; in others, supply is
catching up with demand.
Many of those countries had initially focused on giving
shots to older populations and other high-risk groups. The
Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine has been authorized by
the U.S. and European Union for people aged 12 and over, but
others such as AstraZeneca are only available to adults.
With the spread of the Delta variant, countries are trying
to reignite their campaigns by overcoming skepticism about the
vaccine and misconceptions that the young do not need a shot.
Heidi Larson, director of the international Vaccine
Confidence Project and a professor at the London School of
Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, said a rise in vaccinations due
to Delta variant concerns may have been held back by changes
seen as signalling an end to the pandemic, such as lifting mask
mandates and travel bans.
"We're giving a lot of mixed messages right now," Larson
said. Israel is an exception, she said. It has reimposed
measures such as requiring mask use indoors.
While a decline in vaccination rates is to be expected, it
has created pockets where groups including children, the elderly
and homeless remain at risk, experts say.
"A deceleration of vaccination in itself is a logical
phenomenon," said Vincent Marechal, a senior virologist with
France's Sorbonne University. But slowing down too early opens
the door to the virus spreading - mostly among children - and
evolving to become more dangerous for them.
THE YOUNG DRIVE GAINS
Portugal, where the Delta variant accounts for more than 90%
of cases, has the highest number of new cases in the European
Unions since mid-June. It has also doubled its pace of
vaccinations from a low of around 60,000 inoculations per day,
in part by including 18 to 29 year olds. (Graphic
on global cases) https://tmsnrt.rs/34pvUyi
In Singapore, the rate of vaccinations has recently gone up
after opening its vaccination program to people aged 12 to 39
years old. It also hastened the delivery of vaccine supplies to
help it accelerate the rollout.
In Britain, where 87% of adults have received at least one
dose of COVID-19 vaccine, the government stepped up its target
to have all adults vaccinated by July 19, when its COVID
restrictions are slated to be lifted. It has begun giving second
shots sooner as well to fight the Delta variant.
NO MAGICAL SOLUTION
In France, where 53.3% of the adult population has received
one dose of a vaccine and 41.3% two doses or a single-dose shot,
authorities are ramping up outreach to those who have not made
"We are indeed hitting a glass ceiling and trying to come up
every day with ideas, and the good news is we are seeing a very
recent pick up in bookings," a source close to the health
ministry said last week.
The source added the government was still hoping to see 40
million of adults receive a first dose by the end of August
versus 35.9 million as of July 12.
France is about to open temporary vaccination centres at
cultural venues across the country such as in Avignon, home to a
world-famous theatre festival, and vaccination buses will tour
the Bordeaux wine region of Gironde to catch seasonal workers.
COVID-19 jabs will be mandatory for France's health workers
and anyone wanting to get into a cinema or board a train will
soon need to show proof of vaccination or a negative test under
new rules announced by President Emmanuel Macron on Monday.
In the United States, where young people have been eligible
since April, vaccinations are stagnant. The Biden administration
missed its goal of 70% of adults having had at least one
COVID-19 shot by July 4 and has struggled to reach 50% fully
vaccinated even as it has warned of outbreaks due to the Delta
Younger people have lagged older ones in seeking vaccines
while shots among Black and Hispanic Americans have trailed
those of Asian and white Americans, according to data from the
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
"Whether governments throw in incentives or coercive
measures, there is no magical solution," said Martin Blachier,
an epidemiologist with Paris-based healthcare data analysis firm
Public Health Expertise. "Some will just not get the vaccine."
(Reporting by Matthias Blamont in Paris, Michael Erman in New
York and Maayan Lubell in Jerusalem; Additional reporting by
Francesco Guarascio in Brussels, Nikolaj Skydsgaard in
Copenhagen, Sergio Goncalves in Lisbon, Alistair Smout in
London, Lin Chen in Singapore, Chris Canipe in Kansas City,
Missouri, Jitesh Chowdhury in Bengalaru; editing by Jon McLure,
Caroline Humer and Lisa Shumaker)