How mass vaccination has freed Europe from Covid grip

A health worker vaccinates a patient with a dose of AstraZeneca/Oxford against the Covid-19 at the Mbagathi hospital vaccination centre in Nairobi, Kenya, on Tuesday.  PHOTO/AFP

What you need to know:

  • Uganda now has only just about two in every 100 people vaccinated as by July 10, according to global data platform Statistica.  

Today marks exactly one month since President Museveni imposed a 42-day lockdown in an effort to stem the skyrocketing cases of Covid-19 infections, hospital admissions and deaths.

Although there has been a reported decline in all the three aspects above, government’s plans of whether to open up or continue the lockdown when the 42 days end in 12 days aren’t clear. 

Ministry of Health officials had at the start of the lockdown, on June 18, said the freeze on movement was to help cut down on contacts, scale up vaccination, solve the oxygen crisis by installing more plants and increase the capacity of health facilities to handle Covid-19, and also bolster provision of other essential health services. 

The ministry was going to expand immunisation using the 175,400 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine that were donated by France. 

But official data shows immunisation has been slow, with government targeting to inoculate at least 21.9 million adult Ugandans, but only 168,205 had by press time got the full dose of two jabs and another 878,718 having got a single jab.

Uganda now has only just about two in every 100 people vaccinated as by July 10, according to global data platform Statistica.  

Neighbouring Rwanda has nearly five of every 100 of its population vaccinated, while Kenya has 2.85, South Sudan 0.43, and DR Congo 0.07.

Four-time presidential candidate and Opposition activist Kizza Besigye, who has been criticising the government’s strategies in combating Covid-19, says nothing fundamental is going to happen any time soon.

“What will be changed after 42 days?” he said at a recent press conference. 
“People are not being vaccinated, the capacity to deal with the sick hasn’t changed. The end of lockdown will be the start of illness and death,” he warned.

Perhaps projecting what will come when the lockdown is eventually lifted, Dr Jane Ruth Aceng, the Health minister, warned that Ugandans who will refuse to wear face masks, one of the measures instituted to contain the spread of the virus, would serve a jail term of two months.

Sub-rule (1) of the new statutory instruments on public health rules that the Health ministry has issued stipulates that those found operating bars, night clubs, discotheques and cinema halls, prayers in open and closed spaces, seminars, workshops, conferences and cultural-related meetings, concerts, gym and massage parlours and preprimary schools, would be jailed for two months. 

Other activities suspended in the law are schooling, house parties, trade activities in Kampala City’s downtown trading hub Kikuubo, trading in non-food items, and operating shopping malls. 

It remains to be seen what measures the government will institute if the lockdown is lifted since the new law, Dr Aceng stressed, was to work within the lockdown period. 

While Uganda and the rest of Africa struggle with an upsurge in coronavirus cases, thanks to the Delta variant, some European countries have already moved to lifting the Covid-19-induced restrictions, thanks to the mass vaccinations campaigns. 

How Europe beat lockdown
With nearly 45.7 million people in the UK inoculated with the first vaccine dose - about 87 per cent of the adult population - and more than 34 million people having had second shots, England, which is part of the UK, will next week, despite a sharp rise in the cases, lift its restrictions.  

On July 12, Sajid Javid, the UK’s Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, defended the lifting of the restrictions on grounds that the country’s successful vaccine rollout means nine out of every 10 adults in the UK now have antibodies against the virus.  

UK premier Boris Johnson recognised that though the contagion remains at large, statutory restrictions will be substituted with an endorsement that people wear face masks in crowded places and on public transport.
Nightclubs and other venues with crowds, Mr Johnson said, should use “vaccine passports” for entry “as a matter of social responsibility.”

Elsewhere, with 63 per cent of its population vaccinated, Israel, in April, had allowed inoculated Israelis going to sporting events and concerts, and weddings, which had all been put off during the long months of the pandemic.  Stores, museums and schools were all re-opened.

However, following an upsurge of the contagion, stimulated by the occurrence of the extremely transmissible Delta variant, the Israeli authorities decided to start third shots of the BioNTech/Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine for adults with serious pre-existing medical conditions, becoming the first country in the world to officially offer a purported “booster” of the company’s jab.  

In June, infection rates in Israel had spiked from single digits to more than 400 a day.

Nevertheless, the Israeli authorities said only 47 out of 4,000 active cases nationally are considered to involve serious illness, with health experts insisting that the two-dose Pfizer vaccine continues to provide strong protection against hospitalisation and death. Other countries such as the US and the European Union bloc are still debating the need for booster jabs, with some insisting focus, for now, should be on ensuring those who are yet to get a single jab get it.

Pfizer and BioNTech said a third dose “has the potential to preserve the highest levels of protective efficacy against all currently known variants, including Delta”.

People across the globe were shocked when at the recently concluded Euro 2020 football tournament, unlike other stadiums across Europe, Hungary’s Puskas Arena was allowed to have a full capacity crowd of 61,000 spectators.   

At the beginning of the tournament, England’s Wembley, a 90,000 seater, was at 25 per cent capacity when England hosted Croatia and Scotland.    

The Puskas arena was, however, able to have a full capacity crowd due to the swift rollout of the vaccine programme in Hungary. It is projected that around 5.3 million people of Hungary’s 9.8m population had been vaccinated prior to Euro 2020, which kicked off on June 11 after Viktor Orban, the Hungarian prime minister, made use of vaccines available from Russia and China. 

Before the Euros, Orban had boasted that the vaccines will provide a “bulletproof vest”, and that anyone with proof of immunity can attend indoor meetings, eat inside at restaurants and visit theatres and cinemas.

Italy, which has lost about 127,788 people to the contagion and hosted some of the Euro games, had its up and downs as far as lifting Covid-19 restrictions is concerned.  

In March, restrictions across Italy were solidified and many regions re-categorised as “red zones” as the country battled rising contagion numbers and new variants. 

It was just over a year since Italy went into strict national lockdown. The country early in March experienced the third wave of Covid-19 and the vaccine rollout is proving painfully slow. 

In May, however, following the rollout of a mass vaccination programme, the numbers of new cases fell and Italy gradually eased its Covid-19 restrictions.  Outdoor and indoor dining became possible again and movement between regions designated as “yellow” zones was acceptable. 

June 1 saw indoor dining allowed. Europe’s “Green Pass” scheme – for those who have been vaccinated, recovered from Covid-19 or received a negative test result – will also see foreign travel return in an effort to save Europe’s holiday season.

Italy, according to official data, has administered more than 38 million doses of Covid vaccines overall, with almost one in four people in Italy (24 per cent) having received at least one dose. The country, which has a population of about 59 million people, wants to vaccinate 80 per cent of the population by September, including 12 to15-year-olds.

Covid-19 vaccination rate in the world as of July 

As of July 1, Malta had the highest Covid-19 vaccination rate in Europe, having administered 151.91 doses per 100 people in the country, while the United Kingdom had administered 114.76 doses per 100. 

The UK was the first country in Europe to approve the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine for widespread use and began inoculations on December 8, 2020. 

At the latest data, Iceland had carried out 123.91 doses of the vaccine per 100 population. As the immunisation programmes proceed in Europe, some effects can be seen in lower transmission of the virus compared to early 2021.

As of July 10, Seychelles was the only African country with the highest Covid-19 vaccination rate. There, around 142 doses were administered per 100 individuals. Especially compared to other African countries, the population of Seychelles is extremely small, not reaching 100 thousand inhabitants. This explains why the country managed to vaccinate a large part of the population in a limited period. 

In other parts of Africa, Morocco had a vaccination rate of approximately 53 doses per 100 people, registering the highest number of inoculations. 

In South Africa, the most affected country on the continent, the vaccination rate reached only 7.09 per 100 people in the  country.



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