Britain was hailed for the lightening fast roll-out of its vaccination programme in early 2021. While other countries battled vaccine hesitancy, people in Britain turned up in their droves to get a jab in their arm. By late March, the UK was administering as many as 800,000 doses a day.
But the uptake has slowed considerably in recent weeks, while many of the UK’s European neighbours that were slow off the mark have managed to get their act together.
The UK has now slipped to 12th in a European league table of Covid vaccination rates compiled by the data agency Statista, with 137 doses administered for every 100 people as of October 3.
Iceland tops the table with a rate of 161, with Malta (159) second and Portugal (156) third.
Other European nations ahead of the UK are: Denmark (151), Spain (150), Ireland (145), Norway (143), Belgium (142), Italy (141), France (140) and Finland (138).
Britain’s coronavirus vaccine effort remains impressive, certainly by pre-pandemic standards.
“I feel so privileged to be the first person vaccinated against Covid-19,” she said at the time.
But there is no doubt that progress has slowed dramatically in recent weeks. The average daily number of first doses reached just over 20,000 in mid-September, which compares to a peak of 506,000 on March 13.
But why has Britain’s vaccine rate slowed compared to its European neighbours?
One of the reasons is the fact that the UK has only recently begun to vaccinate 12-to-15-years-olds.
By that point, Denmark and Spain had already vaccinated most of their child population with at least one dose.
Portugal meanwhile recommended in August that 12 to 15-years-old kids be vaccinated.
Tougher restrictions on non-vaccinated people in other European countries have also been credited with driving up their jab rates.
Malta, which has one of the highest vaccination rates, requires non-jabbed people to wear face masks outdoors.
In France, the daily vaccination rate almost doubled following the introduction of its “health pass” in July.
Experts have also suggested that Britain’s Covid vaccine messaging has become less effective over time, with young people far less inclined to be following official guidance on getting jabbed.
Professor Sharifah Sekalala, an expert in public policy and global health at the University of Warwick, told Sky News last month that the overall vaccine rollout has suffered from a lack of engagement with young people.
“Because of the way we banded ages at the beginning, and we reopened before they were vaccinated, people of university age feel as though their vaccinations are not as important as others,” she said.