The European Commission says 70 per cent of the European Union's adult population have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19, hitting a target it set at the beginning of the year.
The announcement marks an important milestone in the EU vaccination strategy after a slow start, but it also masks big differences among EU countries, with some nations being well above the 70 per cent goal while others in the poorer eastern region of the bloc are far behind.
"70 per cent of adults in EU are fully vaccinated. I want to thank the many people making this great achievement possible," the President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen said on Twitter.
In January, the Commission said that "by summer 2021, member states should have vaccinated a minimum of 70 per cent of the adult population."
This was interpreted as meaning that each of the 27 EU member states should hit that target by September. Many, fearing they could not, criticised the Commission in internal meetings, documents seen by Reuters showed.
Now the bloc cumulatively has vaccinated 70 per cent of its adult population, which means that at least 255 million people have received either two doses of Pfizer/BionTech , AstraZeneca or Moderna vaccines, or one shot of the single-dose Johnson & Johnson jab.
The situation differs vastly between countries. Malta has fully vaccinated over 90 per cent of its adult population, data from the European Centre for Disease prevention and Control (ECDC), an EU agency, show.
Ireland and Portugal have also immunised more than 80 per cent of their adult population, and France is above 70 per cent, according to ECDC figures, which usually are updated slightly later than information at disposal of the EU Commission.
In the east, Bulgaria has fully vaccinated just one fifth of its adult population, and Romania about 30 per cent of adults. Croatia, Latvia, Slovenia and Slovakia have immunised about half of those aged above 18.
"We must go further! We need more Europeans to vaccinate. And we need to help the rest of the world vaccinate, too," von der Leyen said in her tweet.