The globe experiences inequitable progress on COVID-19 vaccinations


Elizabeth Boyle, Staff

Michigan Health Lab
Image depicts a person being given a COVID-19 vaccination.

As the weather in Philadelphia finally starts to feel like spring, you may be thinking back to what you were doing last year at this time before the pandemic. A year ago this March was the beginning of the government shutdowns due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In one year multiple companies, including Moderna, Pfizer and Johnson and Johnson, have made and released COVID-19 vaccines approved by the FDA for emergency use. The various COVID-19 vaccines have been distributed first to those 65 years of age and older or those with underlying health concerns. Currently many states, such as Illinois, have made plans to start vaccinating everyone over 16 years of age as early as April 12. 

            Based on the number of vaccines produced and distributed, one would expect to see the world-wide number of COVID-19 cases decreasing. However, this is not the case in Europe. . Europe was one of the first places to have widespread deaths due to COVID-19, primarily in Italy. Recently the European Union (EU) vaccine distribution has been slower than expected, especially relative to Great Britain and the U.S., and positive cases of COVID-19 are rising. There are several potential reasons for Europe’s unexpected predicament. First, it took the EU longer to come together and sign an agreement with vaccine producers. The EU waited for all 27 member countries to come to an agreement about vaccine procurement, whereas other countries rushed into individual agreements to try and move along the process. A second reason is that Europeans have been more vaccine-skeptical than many other developed areas. Nature Medicine Journal published a survey of 19 countries that were asked how comfortable they were with receiving a COVID-19 vaccine that was “proven safe and effective.” China had the highest national response rate with 89 percent positive response compared to  the United States’ 75 percent. The European countries had much lower approval rates; for example, Germany had 65 percent approval and France had 56 percent. 

            For many European countries, an increase in positive COVID-19 cases seems like a step backwards. Conversely, the U.S., Britain (which left the E.U. in January 2020) and Israel are continuing to see an overall decrease in cases subsequent to an increase in vaccinations according to the New York Times, health agencies and hospitals.

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