COVID-19: Europe's vaccine rollout 'unacceptably slow' says World Health Organisation

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Europe's vaccination rollout has been "unacceptably" slow and is prolonging the pandemic, the World Health Organisation (WHO) has said.

A WHO report says "variants of concern" are continuing to spread across the continent and the "strain on hospitals grows" so speeding up vaccination rollout was "crucial".

Dr Hans Henri Kluge, WHO regional director for Europe, said: "Vaccines present our best way out of this pandemic. Not only do they work, they are also highly effective in preventing infection.

"However, the rollout of these vaccines is unacceptably slow."

To date, only 10% of the WHO European region's total population has received a first vaccine dose, and only 4% has completed a full vaccine course.

In the UK, more than half of all adults have had a first dose, although second dose figures are the same at about 4%.

Last week saw increasing transmission of COVID-19 in the majority of countries in the WHO's European region, with 1.6 million new cases and close to 24,000 deaths.

It remains the second most-affected by coronavirus of the world's regions, with the total number of deaths fast approaching 1 million - and the total number of cases about to surpass 45 million.

Dr Dorit Nitzan, regional emergency director for the WHO Europe said: "Only five weeks ago, the weekly number of new cases in Europe had dipped to under a million, but now the region's situation is more worrying than we have seen in several months."