THE vaccine rollout across Europe has been slammed as “unacceptably slow” by the World Health Organisation.
The UN body said the failure was "prolonging the pandemic" and described continent’s virus situation as "more worrying than we have seen in several months”.
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"Vaccines present our best way out of this pandemic,” said the WHO director for Europe Hans Kluge.
“However, the rollout of these vaccines is unacceptably slow.
“We must speed up the process by ramping up manufacturing, reducing barriers to administering vaccines, and using every single vial we have in stock, now.”
To date, only 10 percent of the region's total population have received one vaccine dose, and four percent have completed a full vaccine series, the UN body said.
The WHO's European region comprises 53 countries and territories and includes Russia and several Central Asian nations.
President Emmanuel Macron has announced a three-week nationwide school closure and domestic travel ban amid a surge in coronavirus cases in France.
France is well behind the UK on its vaccine rollout following a series of U-turns on the AstraZeneca jab.
Macron initially claimed the remedy was not suitable for those aged over 65 before announcing it shouldn't be given to those under 55 – and then later reintroducing it.
Vaccine maker Pfizer has accused the EU of delaying the supply of its jabs to countries battling Covid which are in desperate need of them.
The drug maker has slammed export controls which it says have become a "significant burden" for production at its plant in Belgium, which supplies the UK and 70 other countries.
The WHO warned the rapid spread of the virus could increase the risk of the emergence of worrying new variants.
"The likelihood of new variants of concern occurring increases with the rate at which the virus is replicating and spreading, so curbing transmission through basic disease control actions is crucial," Dorit Nitzan, WHO Europe's regional emergency director.
New infections were increasing in every age group except in people aged 80 and older, as vaccinations of that age group begin to show effect.
The WHO said the British variant of the virus was now the predominant one in Europe, and was present in 50 countries.
"As this variant is more transmissible and can increase the risk of hospitalisation, it has a greater public health impact and additional actions are required to control it," it said.
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