Coronavirus vaccination: how is Europe progressing?
After a brief sense of relief that the coronavirus vaccines had been approved, uncertainty about how long the pandemic will last is again on the rise, fuelled by ongoing high infection rates and the emergence of new, more contagious strains of the virus. This makes it all the more important, commentators say, to ensure that vaccination programmes are well organised and to gain the trust of the population.
No run-of-the mill innovation
According to surveys less than 50 percent of Russia's population wants to be vaccinated with Sputnik V. Economist Alexei Sakharov explains in VTimes that this would not normally be a cause for concern, but in this case it is: "As the number of vaccinations grows, confidence will increase - all innovations go through this kind of diffusion: first just a few people try the new product, then the number of users grows. But in this case, the state will either have to resort to compulsory vaccination or find ways to speed up the process. After all, every month wasted is measured in thousands of lives. Confidence in the vaccine must be restored - primarily by making the results of clinical trials known to the general public. Openness and honesty are not our state's strong points, but they are precisely the qualities we need in the current situation.
Inform people, don't tell them what to do
To react to the tense situation with compulsory vaccination for care workers, as Bavaria's Prime Minister Söder has suggested, would be completely misguided, tagesschau.de warns:
“So of all people care workers, who are bearing the brunt of the coronavirus crisis, are now to be told what to do by the Bavarian prime minister. ... This would only validate all the people in online forums, on the streets, in conspiracy theory bubbles who have been shouting about compulsory vaccination being introduced through the back or front door. People who are hesitating because they are not sure whether they want to be vaccinated or not, because it is not yet known because it cannot yet be known whether there will be long-term consequences, will also be frightened off. ... It is up to scientists and politicians to assuage these doubts ... This is what we need to be hearing more of now, not about coercion and duty.”
Non-EU neighbours are less fortunate
Being able to debate about whether or not to get vaccinated is a privilege, journalist Ovidiu Nahoi notes in his blog with RFI România:
“Albania, Bosnia, Kosovo, Montenegro, North Macedonia and Serbia - which taken together have a population of about 20 million - will lag far behind the 27 EU countries and the UK when it comes to achieving mass vaccination. ... The agencies quote the bitter observation by North Macedonian epidemiologist Dragan Danilovski, who compares the current situation to that on the Titanic: 'The rich are taking all the available lifeboats and leaving the less fortunate behind.' Many of the Balkan countries are pinning their hopes on Covax [the WHO's global vaccine programme] and aid organisations.”
Race against mutations
Due to the new, even more contagious virus mutations, the vaccination process must speed up considerably, the Kurier notes:
“As things look now, the worst weeks of the pandemic could still be ahead. ... Vaccination is becoming a race against time. ... The infection rate will pick up and overtake the vaccination rate. ... This will mean lockdown until enough people have been vaccinated, if we are to prevent the hospitals from getting too full. ... In the face of the new developments, the only thing to hold onto now is the fact that vaccines have been developed. Bring them on - as quickly as possible.”