EU could achieve Covid-19 immunity by mid-July, says vaccine chief

The EU's population of 450 million could achieve Covid-19 herd immunity by mid-July, the EU's vaccine chief Thierry Breton told French newspaper Le Parisien.

EU could achieve Covid-19 immunity by mid-July, says vaccine chief
Thierry Breton, the European Commissioner in charge of the vaccine production task force, said the EU could achieve Covid-19 immunity by mid-July. Photo: Emil Helms / Ritzau Scanpix / AFP

Breton, the EU commissioner in charge of the vaccine task force, had already suggested at the end of March that herd immunity would be possible in the EU by July 14th, as incoming jabs are expected to speed up the continent’s sluggish vaccine rollout.

On Monday, he confirmed his prediction to Le Parisien: “We now have good visibility of what is happening, from the production of vaccines to the distribution and tests,” he said.

“Fourteen million doses were delivered to the EU in January, 28 million in February and 60 million in March. For the next quarter, we will increase to 100 million in April, May and June. Then 120 million in the summer, and we will reach a rate of 200 million from September,” he said.

In the second half of the year as a whole, the EU will have received over 800 million doses, according to Breton.

READ ALSO: Europe’s slow vaccine rollout is ‘prolonging the pandemic’ as infections surge

The note of optimism came after several European countries have reimposed restrictions in an attempt to halt soaring Covid case numbers, and the World Health Organisation slammed Europe’s vaccine rollout as “unacceptably slow” on Thursday, saying that it was prolonging the pandemic.

“Vaccines present our best way out of the pandemic…However, the rollout of these vaccines is unacceptably slow,” WHO director for Europe Hans Kluge said in a statement.

So far, only about 10 percent of the region’s total population have received one vaccine dose, and four percent have completed a full vaccine series, the organisation said.

The WHO’s European region comprises 53 countries and territories and includes Russia and several Central Asian nations.

But when it comes to the EU’s slow vaccine rollout, Breton blamed the AstraZeneca laboratory.

“If we had received 100 percent of the AstraZeneca vaccines we were contractually owed, today the EU would be at the same level as the UK in terms of vaccination,” he said. “I can confirm that this hole is due entirely to AstraZeneca’s delivery failures.”

READ ALSO: Questions about possible AstraZeneca jab side-effects linger

On Monday, Johnson & Johnson said it would start delivering its single-shot Covid vaccine to Europe on April 19th, giving the continent a boost in its vaccination drive.

The EU has signed a firm order for 200 million J&J doses and an option for 200 million more.

Member comments

  1. Typical French bullshit:

    “If we had received 100 percent of the AstraZeneca vaccines we were contractually owed, today the EU would be at the same level as the UK in terms of vaccination,” he said. “I can confirm that this hole is due entirely to AstraZeneca’s delivery failures.”

    The EU was simply late, couldn’t make a decision, didn’t put any effort (or money) into the Oxford vaccine’s development as the UK did, then having belatedly put in an order didn’t read or understand the contract they signed, again couldn’t make a decision to allow the vaccine to be used, then stockpiled what they had (which is probably still the case), then threatened illegally to ban exports and they’re still in a mess.

    “The EU’s population of 450 million could achieve Covid-19 herd immunity by mid-July” – only in your dreams Mr Breton!

    The sclerotic EU administration are useless and the whole debacle is nothing to do with science and everything to do with politics. Pathetic, dangerous and will come back to haunt them.

    That’s the truth.

    1. A perfect summary of what has happened. Political posturing by the EU Commission has left them in this dire situation, and rather than take responsibility for their actions they want to blame someone else. I feel very sad for the people that have died from their mistakes.

  2. I don’t see how more deliveries from AZ to the EU would have made any difference since it was widely publicised at the time that the EU wasn’t even using up the deliveries they had received. This is all political double-speak which is pretty shameful in the midst of a lethal pandemic.

  3. This pandemic has reinforced my belief that politicians and these global organisations are not to be believed FULL STOP.

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How Europe’s population is changing and what the EU is doing about it

The populations of countries across Europe are changing, with some increasing whilst others are falling. Populations are also ageing meaning the EU is having to react to changing demographics.

How Europe's population is changing and what the EU is doing about it

After decades of growth, the population of the European Union decreased over the past two years mostly due to the hundreds of thousands of deaths caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.

The latest data from the EU statistical office Eurostat show that the EU population was 446.8 million on 1 January 2022, 172,000 fewer than the previous year. On 1 January 2020, the EU had a population of 447.3 million.

This trend is because, in 2020 and 2021 the two years marked by the crippling pandemic, there have been more deaths than births and the negative natural change has been more significant than the positive net migration.

But there are major differences across countries. For example, in numerical terms, Italy is the country where the population has decreased the most, while France has recorded the largest increase.

What is happening and how is the EU reacting?

In which countries is the population growing?

In 2021, there were almost 4.1 million births and 5.3 million deaths in the EU, so the natural change was negative by 1.2 million (more broadly, there were 113,000 more deaths in 2021 than in 2020 and 531,000 more deaths in 2020 than in 2019, while the number of births remained almost the same).

Net migration, the number of people arriving in the EU minus those leaving, was 1.1 million, not enough to compensate.

A population growth, however, was recorded in 17 countries. Nine (Belgium, Denmark, Ireland, France, Cyprus, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands and Sweden) had both a natural increase and positive net migration.

READ ALSO: IN NUMBERS: Five things to know about Germany’s foreign population

In eight EU countries (the Czech Republic, Germany, Estonia, Spain, Lithuania, Austria, Portugal and Finland), the population increased because of positive net migration, while the natural change was negative.

The largest increase in absolute terms was in France (+185,900). The highest natural increase was in Ireland (5.0 per 1,000 persons), while the biggest growth rate relative to the existing population was recorded in Luxembourg, Ireland, Cyprus and Malta (all above 8.0 per 1,000 persons).

In total, 22 EU Member States had positive net migration, with Luxembourg (13.2 per 1 000 persons), Lithuania (12.4) and Portugal (9.6) topping the list.

Births and deaths in the EU from 1961 to 2021 (Eurostat)

Where is the population declining?

On the other hand, 18 EU countries had negative rates of natural change, with deaths outnumbering births in 2021.

Ten of these recorded a population decline. In Bulgaria, Italy, Hungary, Poland, and Slovenia population declined due to a negative natural change, while net migration was slightly positive.

In Croatia, Greece, Latvia, Romania and Slovakia, the decrease was both by negative natural change and negative net migration.

READ ALSO: Italian class sizes set to shrink as population falls further

The largest fall in population was reported in Italy, which lost over a quarter of a million (-253,100).

The most significant negative natural change was in Bulgaria (-13.1 per 1,000 persons), Latvia (-9.1), Lithuania (-8.7) and Romania (-8.2). On a proportional basis, Croatia and Bulgaria recorded the biggest population decline (-33.1 per 1,000 persons).

How is the EU responding to demographic change?

From 354.5 million in 1960, the EU population grew to 446.8 million on 1 January 2022, an increase of 92.3 million. If the growth was about 3 million persons per year in the 1960s, it slowed to about 0.7 million per year on average between 2005 and 2022, according to Eurostat.

The natural change was positive until 2011 and turned negative in 2012 when net migration became the key factor for population growth. However, in 2020 and 2021, this no longer compensated for natural change and led to a decline.

READ ALSO: IN NUMBERS: One in four Austrian residents now of foreign origin

Over time, says Eurostat, the negative natural change is expected to continue given the ageing of the population if the fertility rate (total number of children born to each woman) remains low.

This poses questions for the future of the labour market and social security services, such as pensions and healthcare.

The European Commission estimates that by 2070, 30.3 per cent of the EU population will be 65 or over compared to 20.3 per cent in 2019, and 13.2 per cent is projected to be 80 or older compared to 5.8 per cent in 2019.

The number of people needing long-term care is expected to increase from 19.5 million in 2016 to 23.6 million in 2030 and 30.5 million in 2050.

READ ALSO: How foreigners are changing Switzerland

However, demographic change impacts different countries and often regions within the same country differently.

When she took on the Presidency of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen appointed Dubravka Šuica, a Croatian politician, as Commissioner for Democracy and Demography to deal with these changes.

Among measures in the discussion, in January 2021, the Commission launched a debate on Europe’s ageing society, suggesting steps for higher labour market participation, including more equality between women and men and longer working lives.

In April, the Commission proposed measures to make Europe more attractive for foreign workers, including simplifying rules for non-EU nationals who live on a long-term basis in the EU. These will have to be approved by the European Parliament and the EU Council.

In the fourth quarter of this year, the Commission also plans to present a communication on dealing with ‘brain drain’ and mitigate the challenges associated with population decline in regions with low birth rates and high net emigration.

This article is published in cooperation with Europe Street News, a news outlet about citizens’ rights in the EU and the UK.