Europe is once again the center of the corona pandemic: The World Health Organization (WHO) announced an increase in coronavirus cases of more than 50 percent last month. The AP news agency analyzes that Europe has “become the epicenter of the pandemic despite the sufficient supply of vaccines”. This is remarkable, especially since vaccination rates of five percent or below are not uncommon in many countries around the world. These figures alarm the WHO, which recently called for booster vaccinations to be stopped in Europe and for vaccines to be sent to those countries where the quota is still so low. But nobody in the EU is currently thinking about that. Because despite the available vaccines, Corona apparently strikes more violently in Europe than elsewhere.
In most EU countries, the governments have already initiated or at least announced tightening of the restrictions for the population. The explanations as to why the numbers are increasing and how best to react vary.
It is interesting that, according to a new Harvard study, the relationship between the vaccination rate and new infections, which was presented in Germany in particular, cannot be causally determined. The study, which appeared in the European Journal of Epidemiology, examined 68 countries and 2947 counties in the United States. The authors’ conclusion: the number of corona infections is even increasing slightly in countries with a higher vaccination rate per million inhabitants.
“It is really important that we are all vaccinated”
Fergus Sweeney, the official in charge of clinical trials and the vaccine manufacturing task force at the European Medicines Agency (EMA), said in Brussels last week that the EU countries must press ahead with their vaccination campaigns because the situation is serious. Sweeney: “It is really important that we are all vaccinated because we are not all protected until we are all protected.”
The situation is very different in the individual countries: Spain seems to have the situation under control best. The country has a very high vaccination rate and is pursuing a focused strategy with so-called booster vaccinations: There should be no refreshments for everyone, but primarily the elderly, especially in nursing homes and people with previous illnesses, should receive a third vaccination.
The newspaper El Pais reports that although the numbers are rising slightly again due to the lower temperatures, hospitals and intensive care units are currently not busy with Covid patients. The schools are also not a driver of the pandemic: Higher numbers of infections in schools tend to correlate with higher numbers in individual districts, according to the newspaper. According to Reuters, the number of those who tested positive in Spain is around six percent from the peak at the height of the pandemic.
Drivers of the pandemic: gatherings in closed rooms
The situation is similarly good with eight percent in Portugal, where a high vaccination rate was also achieved. However, Health Minister Marta Temido warns of a renewed increase – and therefore wants to continue the emergency measures. The minister explains the numbers, which have increased significantly again in Portugal, with the fact that, although the course is less severe, there are more infections because of the opening. She sees the main drivers of the pandemic in meetings in closed rooms, which is why vaccinated people are also asked to wear masks indoors.
In Denmark, where the vaccination rate is also very high, the situation is very tense again. “The disease is starting to have more serious effects on our society and our health system. Therefore, I also expect that measures will be necessary to break the chains of infection, ”wrote Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen on Facebook on Sunday. For a time Denmark was treated as a European model state because the country had a high voluntary vaccination rate.
However, according to the Berlingske Tidende newspaper, the opposition is now criticizing the fact that the government gave the vaccinated people a false sense of security when the whole country actually returned to normal a few weeks ago and all measures were abolished. Now the return to the “Green Pass”, the vaccination card, is again an option. On Monday evening, Frederiksen announced the return to the 3G regime – an initial move recommended by the country’s national vaccination board. After only two months, the limitless freedom in the small Scandinavian country is over for the time being. In Belgium, the population was asked on Monday to work from home again with immediate effect – here, too, the numbers rose significantly.
70 percent of the cases listed as corona deaths were vaccinated
There are also uncertainties about the effectiveness of the vaccination in Sweden: The newspaper Svenska Dagbladet reports that in September 70 percent of the cases reported as corona deaths were vaccinated. The newspaper quoted health officials as saying that the deaths were mainly due to a decrease in the effectiveness of the vaccination in the elderly. In the summer, when all restrictions had been lifted, but the protection for the individual in the vulnerable group was even better, the number of deaths fell drastically.
The number of infections is also rising significantly in Finland and Iceland – a development that is surprising for experts, especially since Finland has had a tough lockdown and the vaccination rate is good. The government in Reykjavik has already asked the population to refrain from parties and drinking bouts as a precaution. According to Iceland Review, this can prevent the health system from becoming overloaded due to violent crime, alcohol poisoning, recreational accidents and car accidents.
The comparison between Austria and Switzerland shows how difficult it is to assign infections to the vaccination quota. The vaccination quota is roughly the same in both countries and is roughly the same as in Germany. Nevertheless, Austria already has the same number of new infections as at the peak of the pandemic, while Switzerland only achieved 18 percent of the maximum, according to Reuters figures. Austria has had a tough lockdown for a long time, Switzerland has been much less restrictive. Austria now wants to tighten the measures and introduced the 2G rule nationwide on Monday.
Turkey hopes to develop its own vaccine.
Switzerland continues to rely on conviction and, among other things, sends vaccination buses through the country where citizens can be vaccinated. In Switzerland, subsidiarity applies: the municipality of Alpthal in the canton of Schwyz refused to visit the bus, according to the Luzerner Zeitung, because there was no interest in vaccinations. The place has one of the lowest vaccination rates in all of Switzerland.
The example of Turkey also shows that the vaccination rate and infection rate do not necessarily have to be related: The newspaper Hürriyet reports that the northern province of Karabük has the highest incidence values, although the vaccination rate there is well above the national average. In the province of Sırnak, on the other hand, where the vaccination rate is lowest, the number of new infections is significantly lower than in other provinces.
The Turkish Minister of Health Fahrettin Koca wrote on Twitter on Sunday that he could understand that people were bored with the constant corona reports. Nevertheless, he recommends vaccination and compliance with general hygiene measures. Turkey also hopes to develop its own vaccine. A test phase for the “Turkovac” product is currently underway with volunteers in the country.