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  Covid-19 vaccination

  61 Debates

The Czech Ministry of Health is resorting to drastic measures to make anti-vaxxers change their minds: one campaign uses photos featuring a dead intensive care patient being lifted into a body bag, accompanied by a text saying: "He had a lot of excuses". Another image shows a coffin and the words: "She kept postponing vaccination". Can these heavy-handed tactics convince the Czechs?

Around 65 percent of EU citizens are now fully vaccinated against the coronavirus. But the rates vary widely from country to country, and even those states with comparatively high vaccination rates are barely reaching levels necessary to contain the Delta variant. Europe's press discusses the causes and appropriate measures to deal with vaccination scepticism and opponents.

Youtube blocked the Russian state-backed broadcaster RT's German-language channels on Wednesday on the grounds that they were spreading misinformation. Videos that try to turn opinion against officially approved vaccines will also be consistently deleted, the tech giant announced. Commentators say the Google subsidiary is making things too easy for itself.

Despite all the complaints about the slow pace of vaccination in the EU, the European Commission's goal of vaccinating 70 percent of adults by the end of the summer has now been achieved. The vaccination rates among individual member states vary widely, however, with only 17 percent vaccinated in Bulgaria and 27 percent in Romania, for example. This and other factors are dampening the enthusiasm in the commentary columns.

Although Europe has plenty of Covid vaccines, demand for them is dropping. Vaccination rates are stagnating and politicians are upping the pressure on those who haven't yet been vaccinated. Although the vaccinated can still infect others with the virus, they are almost completely exempt from testing, while the unvaccinated are forced to fork out for tests - as of Wednesday a negative test will be required even at filling stations in Slovenia.

For schoolchildren in some countries another school year overshadowed by Covid is starting. European societies are arguing about how to best protect themselves from a new wave of the pandemic. Compulsory vaccination for teachers and vaccines for teenagers are among the measures under discussion. One thing all commentators agree on is that children should not have to pay for the freedom of adults.

The US companies Moderna and Pfizer, which produces Biontech's Covid vaccine Comirnaty, have raised the prices of their mRNA vaccines in negotiations with the EU, according to a report in the Financial Times. The cost of a dose of Comirnaty has risen from 15.50 euros to 19.50 euros, and Moderna's Spikevax now costs 21.50 euros instead of 19 euros. An unfavourable development in every respect, commentators conclude.

Despite mass protests, France's government has gone ahead with the introduction of the health passport. Since last week, the Pass Sanitaire is now also compulsory if you want to go to restaurants or shopping centres or use planes and long-distance trains. Some states like Italy had already taken this step before, others are still hesitating. And not all media are convinced that it is the right thing to do.

A number of European states have already taken the first steps in the direction of privileges for those who have been vaccinated and even compulsory vaccination, provoking major protests. Europe's press discusses whether compulsory vaccination is fair and what the alternatives could be.

Countries in Europe now have some of the highest vaccination rates in the world. But the pace is slowing down in many areas, with people not turning up for their vaccination appointments. The summer weather and low infection rates are making people hesitate even if they are not anti-vaxxers. Governments are trying to counter this, with some resorting to drastic measures. The media response is either approving or indignant.

Young people in Greece will now receive pre-paid cards worth 150 euros after their first covid jab. The cards can be used to pay for ferry tickets, accommodation, or tickets to concerts and museums, for example. The programme is directed towards roughly 940,000 people between 18 and 25, and the government has budgeted 141 million euros. It aims to reach a vaccination rate of just under 60 percent by the end of July.

At the end of May, the Comirnaty vaccine from Biontech/Pfizer became the first Covid vaccine to be approved for use in children aged twelve and over. Now Moderna has also already applied for EU approval of its vaccine for the youngest age group. The prospect of widespread vaccination of children against Covid has sparked a new debate.

Slovakia has become the second EU country after Hungary to start vaccinating with the Russian vaccine Sputnik V, which has not yet been approved in the EU. At the end of February, Igor Matovič, then prime minister, ordered 200,000 doses in Moscow - a move that ultimately cost him his job. Slovaks between the ages of 18 and 60, however, are proving much less willing to be vaccinated with Sputnik than expected.

Policymakers in Europe are facing a new problem: not everyone who has the option to get vaccinated is willing to. In collaboration with Muslim organisations the Danish Health Authority has now published an information brochure, as there is less testing and vaccination in areas with a high Muslim population. The press, however, is not impressed.

Documents known as Safepasses are being introduced in Cyprus this week which give vaccinated citizens access to diverse venues and facilities in the coming weeks. The certificates provide confirmation that the carrier has either recovered from Covid, been vaccinated with at least one dose or tested negative on a rapid test in the past 72 hours. The Cyprus Bar Association has called the decision to introduce the documents unconstitutional. The country's media are also critical of the move.

The ambulance service in the Estonian capital of Tallinn has given its employees an ultimatum: those who haven't been vaccinated by the middle of May will have their contracts terminated. A member of staff contacted the media to report the new policy. Estonia's press discusses whether mandatory vaccination is justified.

US President Joe Biden has triggered a global debate with his proposal to temporarily lift patent protection for Covid-19 vaccines. EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen has indicated that the EU is ready to discuss the proposal, but stressed that allowing exports was the key measure for the time being. Europe's commentators also discuss how vaccines can best be distributed fairly.

The availability of vaccines is still the biggest obstacle in the fight against the coronavirus pandemic. There is a fierce struggle over which segments of the population vaccination strategies should prioritise. Europe's press is also engaged in a multi-faceted debate.

Poland's bishops have voiced "serious moral concerns" about the coronavirus vaccines produced by Astrazeneca and Johnson & Johnson. Catholics should refuse vaccination with these substances because foetal cells are used in their production, Józef Wróbel, the chairman of the bioethics team of experts at the Polish Bishops' Conference, said on Wednesday. The national press takes the bishops to task.

Because rich countries have secured most of the scarce supplies of Covid vaccines there are still countries that have not received a single dose - despite the Covax aid programme. While China and Russia have sold their vaccines internationally from the outset, and partly given them away, the EU has so far refused to make donations to developing countries. Commentators say that even if did, this wouldn't do much to decrease global disparities.

The European Medicines Agency (EMA) has completed its review of the Astrazeneca vaccine and recommended its continued use without restrictions. It concluded that although there is a possible link between the vaccine and very rare cerebral venous thrombosis, the benefits outweigh any potential risks. Europe's press doubts that the Agency's decision will dispel all the doubts.

In mid-January the EU Commission announced ambitious goals according to which at least 80 percent of people aged over 80, as well as of those working in health and social professions, were to be vaccinated by March. However, by the end of March just under 60 percent of people over the age of 80 had received the first dose across the EU. Many are pinning the blame on the bloc's unwieldy bureaucracy, but is this justified?

The front runners are Israel, the US, and the UK. These countries have made much faster progress in vaccinating their populations against the coronavirus than the countries of the EU. Observers look at why the European Union is lagging so far behind and discuss how the speed and acceptance of vaccination can be increased.

The German government has proposed the launch of preliminary negotiations for the EU to purchase the Russian coronavirus vaccine. Although Sputnik V has not yet been approved by the European Medicines Agency (Ema), with the other vaccines talks were held before the approval came through. Commentators support the initiative and call on politicians to set ideological differences aside.

Faced with continuing Covid vaccine shortages in the EU, Ursula von der Leyen has threatened to impose export bans. According to Brussels, at least 41 million doses have been exported from the EU since February, ten million of which went to the UK. Meanwhile British-Swedish manufacturer Astrazeneca has only delivered 30 percent of the agreed vaccine doses to the EU in the first quarter, EU sources say. Europe's press discusses the pros and cons of export bans.

The European Medicines Agency (EMA) has given the green light for continued use of the Astrazeneca vaccine. It had launched a review after various EU countries stopped using it because a link to very rare cases of cerebral vein thrombosis could not be ruled out. Commentators welcome the review process and its outcome, but also warn against overreactions.

EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen presented the long-awaited concept for the "Digital Green Certificate" on Wednesday. The document will serve as proof of vaccination, a negative test, or recovery from Covid, and will be issued from June 1 to facilitate travel. Member states are free to decide for themselves what advantages holders will have. Europe's press views the plans with scepticism.

The government in Slovakia is in danger of collapsing after Prime Minister Igor Matovič purchased Russia's Sputnik vaccine without consulting his coalition partners. Two of the partners are now demanding that he quit - and commentators seem to agree. President Zuzana Čaputová summoned Matovič and Deputy Prime Minister Richard Sulík on Tuesday to resolve the crisis.

Sweden has joined the growing list of EU countries that have temporarily suspended Astrazeneca vaccinations. The European Medicines Agency is due to announce on Thursday whether its findings indicate that there is a connection between the jab and rare cases of cerebral blood clots. Europe's press is at odds over whether suspending the jabs makes sense - and points to a dilemma.

First came criticism of the EU's procurement programme, now vaccine distribution is also under fire. In a letter to the Commission, Austria, Bulgaria, Latvia, Slovenia, the Czech Republic and Croatia complained that the procurement system was creating huge disparities in the allocation of vaccines between member states. EU Budget Commissioner Johannes Hahn pointed to unused quotas and problems with Astrazeneca. Commentators are also not entirely convinced by the criticism.

Italy is to become the first EU country to produce the Russian coronavirus vaccine Sputnik V. The Italian-Swiss pharmaceutical company Adienne has announced that it will manufacture the vaccine at its plant in Caponago in Lombardy starting from July - regardless of whether or not the vaccine receives EU approval. Commentators view the move with scepticism.

After giving Sputnik V early official approval Russia is once again going its own way when it comes to coronavirus vaccination: in the country's large cities vaccination with Sputnik V is now available to anyone who wants it, without prioritisation. However, despite the relatively high infection rates demand remains manageable and according to surveys only half of the population, at most, wants to be vaccinated. What's going on?

First Hungary purchased the Russian vaccine Sputnik V and now Slovakia has followed suit, acquiring two million doses even though it has yet to be approved by the EU. In the Czech Republic, President Miloš Zeman has been promoting the Russian vaccine for a some time now. Commentators in both countries are less than enthusiastic.

Almost two months after their launch, the vaccination campaigns in Europe are still making slower progress than many would like. Deliveries of the jointly procured vaccines to EU member states are taking longer than expected, and while certain countries outside the EU, like the UK and Serbia, are forging ahead, others like Ukraine are lagging behind. Europe's press discusses what improvements can be made at the organisational level.

The Bulgarian government has discarded its previous vaccination plan to prioritise certain groups and is now giving everyone access to the vaccines with immediate effect. The campaign was slow getting off the ground with just 120,000 doses administered since December. But thirty thousand Astrazeneca jabs were administered last weekend. Is this a major success in the face of widespread scepticism?

With over four million infections and more than 117,000 deaths, Britain is one of the countries most severely hit by the coronavirus pandemic in Europe, and its crisis management has been widely criticised. But now the UK is taking the lead in terms of vaccination: 90 percent of the over-70s have already received the jab, prompting Prime Minister Boris Johnson to promise a "cautious but irreversible" lockdown lifting.

In Latvia, a new website called manavakcina.lv. was launched on the weekend where anyone who wants to can register for vaccination against Covid-19. As of Tuesday, 62,000 people had registered. Vaccinations have got off to a very slow start in the country, with only around 18,000 of its nearly two million inhabitants having been received the jab so far. The country's press doesn't believe the new website will improve the situation.

Slowly but surely, the number of people who have been vaccinated against coronavirus is rising. Should these people be issued vaccination certificates to enable them to return sooner to a more normal way of life, as for example Denmark is planning to do? Perhaps even before other sections of the population have had the chance to be vaccinated? Press voices across Europe say solidarity should take precedence over individual freedom here.

Even after the row between the EU and Astrazeneca has for the most part been settled, criticism of Europe's approach to acquiring vaccines continues. Commission President von der Leyen has admitted mistakes, but defended the common procurement strategy. The commentaries in Europe's press reflect the controversy.

While the EU is at loggerheads with Astrazeneca over commitments and delivery quantities, countries with fewer financial resources, especially those in the southern hemisphere, are facing far greater problems when it comes to securing sufficient vaccine doses. How can greater vaccination equality be achieved?

In most European countries coronavirus vaccination programmes are now in full swing - as far as supplies allow. Priority is mostly being given to the elderly, nursing home residents and system-relevant occupational groups - with slight variations from country to country. But almost everywhere there have been cases of people in privileged positions flouting the rules to get vaccinated quicker. Commentators vent their fury.

Italy has blocked the shipment of 250,000 doses of the Anglo-Swedish Astrazeneca vaccine to Australia in the first intervention since the EU introduced rules on exports of vaccines outside the bloc in January according to which vaccines can only be shipped with official approval. Is the EU in a better position to deal with manufacturers and global competition than some are making it out to be?

Tensions eased in the row between the EU and Astrazeneca over the weekend. The vaccine manufacturer announced that it would deliver several million more doses to the EU by the end of March, albeit only half of the amount originally promised. Commentators lambaste the EU's performance in this crucial matter.

Criticism of the sluggish progress of the EU-wide coronavirus vaccination campaign is growing in Europe. Biontech boss Uğur Şahin has said the EU was too slow in ordering vaccines. On a per capita basis, the EU states are currently lagging far behind countries like Israel, the US and Britain. But according to commentators, the dog is chasing its own tail over the question of whether the EU or the member states are to blame.

EU leaders backed the European Commission's vaccination targets at their summit on Thursday: the goal is to vaccinate at least 80 percent of the over-80s as well as all care workers by the end of March, and 70 percent of the EU's total population by the end of the summer. Commentators question the initiative - and not just in view of the slow progress of the vaccination campaign in many places.

Following the conditional approval for the first coronavirus vaccine, EU states plan to begin their vaccination programmes on December 27. "We are adding an important chapter to our fight against Covid-19," said EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen after the decision. Europe's press also sees the move as a milestone.

The UK began vaccinating its citizens against the coronavirus on Tuesday. Ninety-year-old Margaret Keenan was the first person to receive the vaccine produced by Biontech and Pfizer. She called on her fellow citizens to also take part in the largest vaccination programme in the country's history. European media share their views on the pioneering role of the Brexit nation.

The European Medicines Agency is due to reach a decision on approving the Biontech/Pfizer vaccine today. Once the agency has given the green light, the necessary approval by the EU Commission is considered certain and an EU-wide vaccination campaign could start before the end of the year. Commentators ask what Europe has learned on the long road to vaccine approval.

The UK's Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency has approved the Covid-19 vaccine from Biontech and Pfizer. The first 800,000 Britons are to be vaccinated with BNT162b2 as early as next week. British Health Secretary Matt Hancock said he was proud that the UK had become the first state to approve a Covid-19 vaccine. But not all commentators see the express approval as a major step forward.

Britain started vaccinating its citizens against Covid-19 today and Russia vaccinated 25,000 volunteers on Monday. Other states plan to begin their immunisation campaigns as soon as possible, leaving many people in Europe facing the question of whether or not to get vaccinated. Different commentators give different answers.

While press voices are criticising the slow progress of vaccination campaigns within the EU, many Europeans are sceptical and don't want to be vaccinated at all. According to an Ipsos study, a significantly lower number of people want to be vaccinated against Covid-19 in the EU than in other regions of the world. Commentators reflect on how to tackle this.

Reports from pharmaceutical companies about the effectiveness of their Covid vaccines are fuelling hopes that the pandemic could end in the near future. But many questions remain unanswered, especially those dealing with how vaccines can be distributed fairly around the world. The media are at odds over whether the market should call the shots, or whether world health is a matter that transcends the economic success of manufacturers.

After Biontech and Pfizer announced a breakthrough in coronavirus vaccine development, closely followed by the US company Moderna, hopes that the pandemic can be beaten through widespread immunization are growing. While some commentators find it hard to control their excitement, others point to the major obstacles ahead and see grounds for scepticism.

Research into a coronavirus vaccine is being conducted at high speed around the world. Germany's health minister Jens Spahn expects a vaccine for "early next year," he said on Friday. However commentators doubt a vaccine can stem the virus to the point that life without restrictions will be possible once more.

The pharmaceutical company Astra Zeneca has suspended a clinical trial of a Covid-19 vaccine after one of the participants came down with an unexplained illness. An independent party is investigating whether the illness is related to the serum, the company reported. Europe's commentators see this cautious approach as a good sign rather than a disappointment.

The EU Commission is considering purchasing 80 million doses of a potential coronavirus vaccine from the US company Moderna. The active substance is one of eight that have reached the clinical trial phase. The Commission has already secured millions of vaccine doses from other companies. Where is the race for a vaccine leading us?

Russia has become the first country to approve a vaccine against the coronavirus for general use. Sputnik V is effective and offers sustainable immunity, Kremlin chief Vladimir Putin announced on Tuesday. However, scientific data on the vaccine has yet to be released. Journalists warn against premature rejoicing, pointing to health and other risks.

The CEO of French pharmaceutical giant Sanofi, Paul Hudson, caused indignation by saying that if the company succeeds in creating an effective coronavirus vaccine the US will likely have first access because of its financial support for Sanofi's research. Although Hudson has since backed down, manufacturers and politicians alike are facing the question of health and fairness.