Germany, France, Spain, Italy struggle with vaccine skepticism and blood clot fears

Vials of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine are seen at a medical center in Champigny, near Paris. France decided to temporarily suspend the AstraZeneca vaccine, in coordination with other European countries. March 16, 2021. Photo by REUTERS/Gonzalo Fuentes

The European Union’s vaccine rollout has been going slowly compared to other wealthy nations. Germany, France, Spain, and Italy have fully vaccinated fewer than 4% of their population. That’s compared to about 12% in the U.S. These figures follow news that those same European countries have paused the use of AstraZeneca’s vaccine due to concerns over blood clots. 

Low vaccination rates might be the result of slow distributions  in the United Kingdom, according to Dave Lawler, world news editor at Axios. He points to a phase where low supplies of the U.K.-based AstraZeneca vaccine led to questions over the efficacy of the treatment.

“There was some erroneous reporting that this vaccine was not all that effective,” he says. “And now we have this new phase where actually the data that was coming in … has actually looked increasingly good.” 

He adds that the blood clot controversy has added to the troubles plaguing European vaccination efforts. Due to doubts over efficacy, Lawler says some residents now prefer the Pfizer vaccine. 

Lawler says this brand of vaccine skepticism might be more widespread than the doubts seen in the U.S. He notes other regions, like Great Britain, have embraced vaccination efforts. 

“When it comes to the AstraZeneca vaccine — which as I mentioned, was developed at Oxford University, it's a homegrown vaccine — there's a lot of pride in the U.K. at the fact that that vaccine is going all over the world,” Lawler says.