The tortoise is threatening to overtake the hare. On current trends, within just three weeks France will have first-vaccinated more people against Covid than the United Kingdom. And within two weeks, France (with almost exactly the same population) will have more fully vaccinated people than Britain.
Several other EU countries, including Belgium and Spain are threatening to overtake Britain in terms of jabs per head of population in the next few days.
The UK vaccination drive has slowed to a crawl in the last month. France is now first-vaccinating an average of 330,000 people a day; the UK 44,000. France is completing the vaccination of 400,000 people a day; the UK 170,000.
Experts suggest these numbers are unimportant. Britain has already achieved an extremely high level of first vaccination, 88% of the adult population, about 70% of the whole population. It was always going to be difficult to reach the final few millions of those shying away from vaccination.
Despite these figures Covid infections are falling fast. Privately, it’s reported senior ministers are boasting that Britain has already achieved “herd immunity”.
The French vaccine programme, after a slow start, had a strong spell from April to June. It then slowed as it reached the strata of ‘vax-snubbing young’ or ‘vax-resistant older people.’ This came as no surprise after a survey of 15 countries in December, found France to be the most vaccine-hesitant, with only 40% intending to get the jab.
Having led the world in anti-Covid vaccination earlier this year, in the UK, the government risks – like the hare in Aesop’s fable – taking a nap in the final stretch of the race.