CEE Special | Vaccines are light at the end of the tunnel
Successful inoculation process will not only save lives, but will also enable easing of restrictions that hamper economic activity. Most of CEE region has contracted sufficient amount of vaccines to reach herd immunity. However, delivery hiccups will remain the biggest obstacle.
The EU has ordered a total of 2.6bn doses from six manufacturers and has also concluded exploratory talks with Novavax and Valneva on the purchase of up to 260mn doses of these two vaccines. The CEE region is mostly in a comfortable position. Given that the majority of the vaccines require two doses, the country-level contracts should cover more than the whole population in Czechia, Hungary, Serbia, Slovakia and Slovenia. In general, herd immunity should be achieved once at least 70% of the eligible population gets vaccinated.
According to a leaked document by the European Commission, given the current supply plan, only around 50% of the population could be vaccinated with two doses in most CEE countries by the end of June, which is below the EU27 median. The situation looks the gloomiest in Slovakia and Croatia, where less than 40% of the population should receive two shots by the end of 2Q21.
Availability of vaccines is not the only struggle CEE countries will need to deal with in order to get a critical mass of the population inoculated. According to the European Commission survey from December 2020, only about one third of the adult CEE population was convinced to get vaccinated as soon as possible or sometime this year. Although resistance to vaccines has likely decreased since December last year, recent news about the very rare side-effects of the Oxford/AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson jab could additionally undermine the inoculation process.