After getting off to a rocky start, Europe's vaccination campaign has accelerated in recent weeks, despite lingering restrictions on the continent's "workhorse" AstraZeneca jab (over concerns about deadly cerebral blood clots that have affected a small number of patients with low blood-platelet counts), and lingering skepticism among many younger people, including health-care workers.
According to the latest numbers from Bloomberg, more than 1.36 billion doses of various vaccines have been administered (though this figure likely leaves out many millions who have been vaccinated in China) and of these, EU countries have administered just over 200M. Still, only 12% of European adults have been fully vaccinated, and that number has been rising with agonizing slowness.
And as the US prepares to start vaccinating children as young as 12, vaccine skepticism remains a major long-term obstacle to Europe's long-term growth outlook, which is becoming an increasingly important piece of many investors' outlook for an expected sharp rebound in global growth over the coming year as the developed world emerges from the COVID era.
Just this morning, Starwood's Barry Sternlicht exclaimed during an interview on CNBC's "Squawk Box" that Europe is still mostly under lockdown. But when it reopens "hold on to your chair."
"Europe is closed. When Europe opens, hold onto your chair," says Barry Sternlicht on inflation fears. "It is now cheaper to build with steel than with lumber. That is a first ... we have created a really odd looking set of circumstances." pic.twitter.com/67eQQjzCbg— Squawk Box (@SquawkCNBC) May 13, 2021
Well, the latest data out of Europe show that what the FT calls "vaccine hesitancy" remains widespread:
In the bloc, 27 per cent of adults said they were “very unlikely” or “rather unlikely” to agree to a coronavirus shot, the Eurofound survey showed.
Hesitancy is highest in eastern countries, with Bulgaria leading with 61% saying they're "nervous" about the jab.
Rejection is higher in many eastern European countries, with Bulgarians the most hesitant of all: 61 per cent are nervous of receiving the jab. Elsewhere in the region, the report finds more than 30 per cent hesitancy in Latvia, Croatia, Slovenia, Poland and Slovakia. Some are as high as 50 per cent.
But the most skeptical among the larger EU countries might surprise readers: It's France - where only half of adults say they are "likely" or "rather likely" to get the vaccine. The numbers for Spain and Italy are much lower at just 20%.
All this begs the question: As Europe's biggest economies remain under lock and key (with the notable exception of the UK), will the Continent ever reopen?