Higher vaccination rates lead to lower Covid infections and deaths in Western Europe than in parts of Central and Eastern Europe, according to the latest figures, with the exception of the United Kingdom, where the number of cases is rising, according to Our World in Data. (OWID – “Our World in Data” is an online scientific publication).
The data show a clear link between the percentage of fully vaccinated people and new daily deaths and deaths, with health systems in some under-inoculated Central and Eastern European countries under severe stress. The outcome looks close to Britain, which has already, although ahead of many EU countries, vaccinated a similar proportion of its population as in most Western European countries, but has an infection rate that is more similar to that in the east.
Slower vaccination programs in Central and Eastern Europe, combined with easing most social distancing measures over the summer, have led to a dramatic jump in Covid cases in some Central and Eastern European countries. Driven by the more contagious version of the Delta, the Baltic states of Lithuania (771) and Latvia (737) have the highest moving seven-day average of new daily cases per million, according to Our World In Data, along with Romania (678) and Estonia. 675), which do not lag behind.
The same countries, together with Bulgaria, are also consistently among the highest daily mortality rates per million in Europe, with Romania at a moving average of 14 and Bulgaria at 13, followed by Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia at 9, 5 and 3, respectively. These figures are in stark contrast to some of the best-performing countries in Western Europe: new daily infections per million in Spain, Italy, Portugal, Sweden and France are more than 10 times lower, at around 38, 43, 59 , 59 and 76 respectively, with daily deaths per million also decreasing between 0.5 and 0.9.
Health systems in Romania, Bulgaria and Latvia are difficult to manage, with hospitals operating at 80% to 100% capacity. Romania postponed all minor operations last week, Bulgaria is battling a wave of fake vaccinations and PCR test certificates, and Latvia has announced emergency medical care.
“If the current flow of patients continues, the health system will collapse in a day or two because we no longer have enough space to accommodate the sick,” said Matej Bals, director of Bucharest’s Catalina Hospital last week.
There were 14,457 new Covid cases in Romania in 24 hours on Thursday, in a country with just over 19 million, while Friday’s death toll was the highest since the pandemic, with 385 people dying from coronavirus. For the first time since the beginning of the pandemic, the country plans to send critically ill patients abroad. “I am afraid that we are already in the scenario for Italy,” said the head of the national vaccination campaign, Valeriu Georgisha, referring to the fact that the health system in northern Italy was overloaded in March 2020 during the first wave of the virus.
The link with vaccination progress seems clear. Again, according to Our World In Data, Bulgaria and Romania have the lowest levels of immunization in the EU, with only 20% and 29% of their total population receiving two doses. Latvia and Estonia perform better with 48% and 43%, but even these figures are far from the percentages recorded by many Western European countries. Portugal is now fully vaccinated by almost 86% of its total population, Spain by almost 79%, Italy by more than 68% and France by more than 66%, with any increase in cases having only a very limited impact on mortality figures.
Official figures show that more than 70% of confirmed infections and 93% of deaths in Romania are from unvaccinated people. “We are still a battlefield, unfortunately,” said Adrian Marinescu, medical director of the National Institute of Infectious Diseases.
“Vaccination is often the difference between life and death for a vulnerable person.” Bulgaria and Romania face the additional challenge of political crises. Bulgaria is running in its third parliamentary elections in less than a year, while the Romanian government was ousted last week with a no-confidence vote, leaving politicians in both countries not to impose stricter restrictions for fear of upsetting voters. The UK is in the unusual position of having fully vaccinated a relatively high percentage of its population (just over 66%), but also has the fifth highest infection rate in Europe, with 534 new daily cases per million people – not far behind the Baltic Peninsula. and between eight and 12 times higher than France, Italy and Spain.
Following the highly successful implementation of early vaccination, the United Kingdom was overtaken by seven EU countries, in part because many continental countries began vaccinating children over the age of 12 in June – although other factors, such as strong incentives through vaccine passports, also helped. increase vaccination rates in countries such as France.