After lagging behind for months, Spain has now overtaken the UK in having the highest double-jabbed proportion of the population.
Recent figures from Our World In Data showed that 54.3% of the Spanish population had received both doses of the coronavirus vaccine – compared to 54.1% for the UK.
While the UK vaccination programme has been a huge success, other European countries – including France, Germany, Italy and Portugal – had something of a stalled start.
However, those countries have ramped up their programme and the numbers of double-jabbed have increased, with Portugal set to also overtake the UK in the coming days.
The young adult problem
While vaccine uptake for older adults has been higher, Boris Johnson faces a bigger challenge convincing younger adults to get jabbed.
NHS England data up to 22 July showed that just two thirds (66%) of 18-29-year-olds in England have had their first jab, compared with 88% of the whole adult population.
Meanwhile, research from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) found that between seven and 10% of adults under 30 have expressed some kind of hesitancy about having the vaccine, compared to 4% of the entire adult population.
The figures will provide headaches for the government, as the infection rate among 20 to 29-year-olds stands at 1,154.7 per 100,000 – the highest figure for any age group in England.
But with COVID regarded as a serious disease for older people and those with underlying health conditions, younger people may feel that they do not need to get the vaccine yet.
In an attempt to persuade young adults to get the jab, the prime minister announced last week that vaccine passports would be required in September for nightclubs – with a negative test no longer being enough.
The passports have also been mooted for Premier League football games and for attending university, and the government will be hoping the threat of being unable to attend such activities will be enough to persuade young adults to get their jabs.
Other measures to increase the take-up include a pop-up vaccine clinics such as that at Thorpe Park in Surrey, where guests can get a vaccine before jumping on the rides.
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After a strong start, the daily vaccine rate has dropped significantly from an average of around 595,000 at the end of May to around 270,000 by 4 July, according to data from the British Medical Journal (BMJ).
The slowdown is thought to be put down to people hesitant to take vaccines, while booking a slot is now left up to anyone wanting one – where at the start of the programme, people were given a date and time to attend by health authorities.
This lack of a prompt has seemingly contributed to the drop in the amount of people getting the vaccine.
With the majority of COVID restrictions removed on 19 July, the risk of outbreaks among those who have not been vaccinated – of which younger adults count for a large proportion – is higher.
If these groups see outbreaks, an increase of indoor mixing could put older and more vulnerable people at risk of catching COVID, the BMJ warned.
How is Europe faring?
After a slow start, Germany’s vaccination campaign has accelerated and over half the population has now been vaccinated, while Italy has predicted that the whole population will be vaccinated by the end of September.
Italians will have to show proof of vaccination from August to gain entry to public venues like museums and cinemas, and is a possible reason that uptake has increased significantly in recent months.
Meanwhile, in France the threat of needing a vaccine passport for venues and travelling has seemingly been successful in getting more people vaccinated.
Figures from the Institut Pasteur suggest that the number of people vaccinated by September may limit the peak of the fourth coronavirus wave and more restrictions – providing figures remain at the current rate of 684,000 per day.
In the weeks before the ‘health pass’ was announced, figures stood at around 500,000 a day, with the trend decreasing.
However, huge protests saw tens of thousands taking to the streets in France to rally against the introduction of a domestic vaccine passport.
As a result, the French government watered down their proposals – including lowering fines for noncompliance and changing the rules for shopping centres.
The pass has also been met with a backlash from some French politicians, meaning the proposals could be watered down further so that the bill can make it through parliament.
With Spain now leading the way in Europe, it may be turned to as a model for other countries to replicate when it comes to keeping the uptake of vaccinations high.
Spain, which had early access to the EU’s large amount of doses, has a good “vaccine culture”, according to Jose Antonio Forcada, president of the National Association of Nursing and Vaccines and the programme has been broadly accepted by Spaniards of all ages.
He said that young adults “may think that after getting vaccinated, they can do whatever they want”, but warned that this was “a mistake”.
Nevertheless, Forcada said the success of the rollout in Spain was aided by “nurses from hospitals and health centres, volunteers who are doing double shifts and working themselves to the bone”.
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