Europe has pushed ahead of the U.S. in vaccinating its citizens and has experienced a summer of relatively subdued Covid-19 caseloads, hospitalizations and deaths, despite the spread of the Delta variant.
Deaths from Covid-19 in the European Union averaged around 525 over the seven days through Tuesday and around 140 in the U.K. In January, daily deaths peaked at 3,500 in the EU and around 1,200 in the U.K., according to national data compiled by the University of Oxford’s Our World in Data project.
Adjusted for population, EU deaths equate to around 1.2 per million a day, and U.K. deaths to 2.1 per million. That compares with 6.1 per million currently in the U.S.
The difference reflects wider vaccine coverage, especially of older and high-risk groups. The 27 countries of the EU have fully vaccinated 61% of the bloc’s 448 million population, compared with 55% in the U.S., according to data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and its EU counterpart. Big EU nations picked up the vaccination pace after a slow start this year. France has fully vaccinated 67% of its population, Germany 63% and Italy 66%. The U.K., which left the EU in 2020, has fully vaccinated 66% of its residents.
Author(s): Jason Douglas in London, Erin Delmore in Berlin and Eric Sylvers in Milan
Wealthy, vaccine manufacturing countries like Germany, France, and the U.S. have pledged to fully vaccinate their own populations while also sharing doses with the developing world. But it’s not clear that a sufficient number of doses currently exist for them to make good on this promise. The European Union, for example, is on track to fall far short of its goal of donating 200 million doses to non-member states by the end of the year. And as of August, COVAX, the World Health Organization’s (WHO) vaccine sharing initiative, had distributed 188 million vaccines worldwide, just 19 percent of the 1.1 billion that the WHO says are needed to end the pandemic.
The more people remain unvaccinated worldwide, the likelier it is that new variants will emerge, endangering vaccinated and unvaccinated alike.
Legally, the U.S. may already have the ability to do so. The terms between Moderna and the federal government specify that the government possesses rights to the vaccine technology developed under the contract, meaning that it can unilaterally publish or share the data with anyone. Furthermore, an essential component of the Moderna vaccine was invented and patented by U.S. government researchers, meaning that the government could threaten a patent infringement suit against Moderna if the company refuses to share its vaccine know-how.
The downloadable data sets on cases and deaths included the report date as well as the date a person died or got sick, allowing journalists and independent researchers to select the best metric for their purposes. The daily reports showed additional cases and deaths added from one day to the next.
In June, as case numbers dropped and vaccination rates continued to rise, the health department discontinued the dashboard and changed to a weekly report. The only near-daily data was submitted by the health department to the CDC and published on the CDC Trend Tracker website.
At first, the data on the CDC website was updated in a largely predictable manner, similar to the way that the DOH had reported daily changes throughout the pandemic. Then on Aug. 10, without warning or any explanation from the health department or the CDC, the data for nearly every day of the previous year changed. Neither agency immediately explained the changes.
Author(s): Sarah Blaskey, Ana Claudio Chacin and Devoun Cetoute, McClatchy Washington Bureau
The big picture: The Biden administration is ultimately trying to figure out how well-protected different demographics are against the virus, and for how long. From there, they can decide who should get booster shots.
But while the administration waits for more information, telling the public only that boosters aren’t necessary right now, drug companies and other countries are filling the data and communication void.
“Just think we live in a country which is incapable of telling us the percent vaccinated or unvaccinated who require hospitalization for covid. No less any more data about them. Or track breakthrough infections. Thanks @CDCgov,” tweeted Eric Topol, executive vice president of Scripps Research.