More than 100 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines have been administered worldwide – a new landmark in the short history of the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic. Less than a year after the WHO declared a global pandemic, and just weeks since vaccines became available, tens of millions of people have been vaccinated.
According to Our World in Data, the United States has vaccinated the highest number of people, followed by China, the United Kingdom, Israel and the United Arab Emirates. Germany, Italy and Poland are also in the top 10.
EU countries have had a slower start than Russia, the UK and and US, which approved vaccines earlier. With a third vaccine approved in the EU last week, and positive clinical trial results reported in two other promising vaccines, European countries are aiming to catch up with global frontrunners by the middle of 2021. The EU has ordered billions of vaccine doses and will ultimately have more than its population needs.
Europe also lags Israel, the UAE and Bahrain which have rolled out large vaccination campaigns. EU countries have jointly purchased vaccines from several manufacturers through the European Commission.
The European Medicines Agency (EMA) has approved three COVID-19 vaccines to date, several weeks after their counterparts in the UK and US. The UK approved two vaccines in December 2020 while still part of the EU regulatory system – an option that remains open to EU Member States.
Although EU countries can approve vaccines via national regulators, 26 of 27 have opted to wait for the EMA to conclude its reviews before proceeding. The exception is Hungary which unilaterally approved two vaccines last week.
While vaccines are now approved, vaccinating millions of people is a slow process. Supply of vaccines and availability of trained health professionals to deliver vaccines are among the factors determining how quickly vaccination programmes are implemented.
Looking at data on EU countries only, Malta has vaccinated the most people on a per capita basis, followed by Denmark, Slovenia, Romania and Lithuania.
As Europe and the world continues to face high numbers of cases of COVID-19, and hospital systems in some countries struggle to cope with demand for care, protecting populations against severe disease will be vital.
It is likely to take many more months before the supply of vaccines meets demand. However, with millions of people vaccinated globally every day, and more vaccines on the horizon, there is light at the end of the tunnel.