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22 November 2021

How low vaccination rates are driving Europe’s winter surge

Europe nervously watches as Austria is plunged into another lockdown before Christmas.

By Nick Ferris

On Monday 22 November Austria became the first European country to reimpose a national lockdown this winter. Employees were asked to work from home, and all non-essential shops have been shut. 

Over the weekend, thousands of Europeans protested against new restrictions, such as mandatory vaccine passports being introduced. Meanwhile, the World Health Organisation has warned that another 500,000 people in Europe could die from Covid by March if new public health measures are not implemented. 

Austria has among the lowest vaccination rates in western Europe, with 64 per cent of Austrians fully inoculated.

Data shows there is a clear link between vaccination rates and the number of people dying in Europe’s Covid surge. 

In the UK, daily deaths stand at around 150 per day, having crept up from around 100 per day at the end of August. The vaccine has so far proved effective at preventing deaths from reaching anywhere near the 1,000 deaths per day recorded during the winter peak.

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The UK government is encouraging more adults to get a third booster vaccine. Research has shown that Covid vaccine effectiveness wanes significantly, with the Pfizer-BioNtech jab around 50 per cent less effective after six months. 

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On Monday 22 November, Covid booster jabs were opened up for all over-40s. The vaccination rate for booster jabs stands at around 350,000 per day in the UK, which is the same as the vaccination rate recorded for first doses throughout much of February and March. 

A November study published in the British Medical Journal found that booster vaccines gives “significant increased protection”, even greater than the protection initially recorded after the first two doses.