The most prosperous continent in the entire world, Europe was expected to perform much better as compared to the other nations across the world. However, for multiple reasons, Europe has again become the global hub of the COVID 19 pandemic, and the WHO also has issued statements that it is extremely worried about the European situation right now. Last week, Europe reported about 2 million new cases in a week, which is the highest ever since the pandemic began at the beginning of 2020. More than half of the global deaths in the last month were just in Europe.
Now to understand Europe, you have to see the continent in 2 different parts, are Western Europe and Eastern Europe. Western Europe is much richer, much more developed with countries like Germany, France, the UK, Switzerland, Italy, Spain, these are Western Europe. Then there are eastern European countries like Hungary, Bulgaria, Poland, etc., which are lesser developed as compared to Western Europe. Western Europe has seen much higher vaccination rates as compared to Eastern. But that does not mean that the countries of Western Europe are not facing this trouble. Even the countries with very good vaccination rates are seeing this trouble of COVID 19 pandemic coming there once again. Thus, a lot of nations have taken very strict action. France, for example, started the policy of not allowing people to visit public places if they are not fully vaccinated. Many other countries are taking the same example. Austria, for example, imposes a national lockdown for three weeks, starting from November 22. Although Austria has completely vaccinated about two-thirds of its population, it is still facing a lot of issues with the COVID 19 pandemic.
Now, this might also raise questions in the minds of people who believe that vaccination would completely stop the COVID 19 infection from catching you. That is not always true. Most daily cases that we are seeing in Europe are among the unvaccinated people, but there are some instances of breakthrough infections also. Breakthrough infection means infection to those people who have already been vaccinated. There is a little chance of you catching an infection even after your vaccination, but the good part is that if you are fully vaccinated, the chances of you needing a hospital or your health becoming very bad are very low.
As the report also says, most of the deaths due to the virus are amongst the unvaccinated people and not those who have already taken the vaccination. Although there are multiple reasons why this might be happening in Europe, the one reason that I think is that the countries only focus on vaccination while forgetting everything else. There was no national mandate to wear masks in public places. People were not socially distancing themselves and were gathering at confined places. This may be one of the causes behind the worsening situation in Europe.
Now beyond this article, there are many other reports in the international media that suggest why exactly is Europe facing this trouble again?
So most of the cases in Europe that are coming up now are because of the Delta variant. This variant is extremely infectious, and to tackle this, the country is required to extremely high rate of vaccination. There are certain European countries where vaccination rates are very low. Russia has only vaccinated 37% of its population. In fact, the Russian president recently said that a lower vaccination rate can be the reason behind the problems that we are facing. Bulgaria only 23%, Romania only 37% people fully vaccinated.
A contradiction to this is Belgium. Although Belgium is completely vaccinated 74% of its population, it is still one of the hardest-hit countries in this wave of coronavirus, which indicates that to protect your population against the Delta variant, even 74% coverage is not enough, and the country needs to aim for at least 90% vaccination. But the problem in Europe is not the lack of vaccination, but people not wanting to get the vaccination because of various ideas in their mind, including the idea that the government cannot force us to do anything, we are free to live our lives in the manner that we want.
The second reason that the international reports are suggesting is because of waning immunity. We always knew that taking vaccination against COVID 19 is not a one time exercise. These vaccinations will give you antibodies whose impact will start to reduce after some time. The report suggests that AstraZeneca’s vaccine is the same as Covishield in India. The number of antibodies in your body start to decrease after 96 days. For Pfizer’s vaccine, the number of antibodies starts decreasing after 257 days. That is why there are a lot of reports suggesting that it is time for a booster shot. That also can be a reason why the European population is again falling ill against the Delta variant.
The third reason that international media suggests is released restrictions. In many of the European nations, elections are approaching and the government does not want to make the people angry by forcing them to stay inside because of which a lot of governments have opened up their country. They suggested concerts, sports events, etc. are now completely allowed, which is leading to this problem resurfacing once again. There is a phrase that became very famous in India a few months back, which was revenge travel. Revenge travel means that since people could not travel anywhere in the entire year of 2020, now in 2021, people are compensating for that. Travelling even when it is advised not to go into public places, even when it is advised against it, just because they want to compensate for 2020. This also is leading to increased troubles in Europe.