COVID-19: Malta is fast to vaccinate elderly, but rest of Europe lags behind

Politico vaccine data shows only five countries have met EU targets to vaccinate 80% of people aged over 80

Mary Pizzuto, 94, was the first resident at St Vincent de Paul to receive the COVID-19 vaccine
Mary Pizzuto, 94, was the first resident at St Vincent de Paul to receive the COVID-19 vaccine

Just five EU countries have met a European Commission goal to vaccinate 80 percent of people over the age of 80, Malta being an exception in the entire EU. 

Only a few of those reporting have managed to vaccinate 80 percent of their health and social care workers, Brussels newspaper Politico reported in a compilation of vaccine statistics

The EU’s vaccination efforts have been slow, with member states individually managing their own vaccination campaigns. 

But the campaign was hampered by vaccine shortages: AstraZeneca came up millions of doses short on its projected first-quarter deliveries; and Johnson & Johnson will deliver its first doses at the end of April. 

The EU has a lot more work to meet the Commission’s goal of vaccinating 70% of its adult population by the end of the summer. On average, less than 60% of people over that age have received one dose, according to the most recent data from the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) from March 28.  

40% of adults in Malta have received first COVID-19 vaccine dose 

By the end of March, the EU expected to have at least 150 million vaccines rolled out. 

BioNTech/Pfizer delivered 67 million doses as of 31 March, opening up a new plant to deliver up to 200 million vaccines in the second quarter. 

Moderna met its target of supplying 10 million doses in the first quarter. But Oxford/AstraZeneca barely met its 80-100m target by end-March. Citing issues at its Belgian plant, AstraZeneca dramatically reduced that goal to 31 million doses. EU officials doubt the company will meet its target to supply 180 million doses to the bloc by the end of June. 

Johnson & Johnson still hasn’t delivered any doses, although its contract said it would only begin deliveries on April 1 at the earliest. IDT Biologika, a German company, was newly contracted to bottle the vaccines starting in mid-March, but these doses still need to complete quality checks that take about four weeks. 

At the end of March, Hungary received half a million doses of the Russian Sputnik V vaccine and 1.1 million doses of Chinese Sinopharm/Beijing, according to the latest data from the ECDC. And Slovakia received 200,000 doses of Sputnik in early March. 

Some EU countries aren’t using all of the doses they have. Some are holding back second doses to fully vaccinate people, while others are simply rolling out the vaccines slowly. Bulgaria and the Netherlands, for example, are sitting on more than 34 percent of their available doses, according to the most recent ECDC data.