Despite a slow start, the European Union’s COVID-19 vaccination drive has caught up with that of the United States. The United States’ slowdown in its once-famous campaign has contributed to the virus’s deadly return.

In mid-February, less than 4% of people living in the 27-nation EU were at least partially vaccinated against the coronavirus, compared with nearly 12% in the U.S, according to Our World in Data, an online science publication connected to the University of Oxford.

The EU now has more people receiving medication than the U.S., with 60% of its residents receiving at least one dose compared to less than 58% for Americans.

Premier Mario Draghi won a victory lap in Italy this week, where 63% of those aged 12 and over are fully protected.

He said, “I said I didn’t want to celebrate success, but it must also be noted that Italy has inoculated 100 more people than France, Germany, or the United States.” The country’s vaccine verification program was implemented Friday.

Italy now requires that all people in the country can show proof of having received at least one dose of vaccine, have recovered from COVID-19, or are otherwise positive for the virus. This is required if they wish to eat indoors, exercise, or visit museums, theatres, and other tourist attractions such as the Colosseum.

European authorities credit Italy’s success with nationalized health care, as well as a history of trust in immunizations and public safety, to their success.

Although the EU’s slow approval process for vaccinations was a setback in its beginning, it is now paying off because it instills more confidence in the rapidly developing formulas, according to Dr. Peter Liese from Germany, who is a member of the European Parliament.

The U.S. issued immediate authorizations for vaccines in order to quickly get the shots into armies, while Britain and the United Kingdom did the same thing but took longer to obtain full approvals. This left the EU weeks behind.

Liese stated that she believes there is a strong argument that can be used to convince people who are still skeptical that the vaccine was tested properly in Europe. “Now, it is clear that the timing of vaccinations in the first month and the long-term strategy are important.”

Spain’s turnaround has been dramatic. According to Our World in Data, only 7% of Spaniards were similarly protected in mid-April when almost a quarter of Americans had been fully vaccinated. Nearly 60% of Spain’s 47 million inhabitants are now fully vaccinated. Only half of the U.S. population is.

Portugal, home to around 10 million people had vaccinated approximately a third of their population by June’s end. Officials now claim that it will reach 70% by the end the summer.

The European Union’s effort to boost vaccinations began around Christmas, but it was unable to meet initial demand. It quickly became a political embarrassment to European officials as Britain and the U.S. jumped ahead.

The main factor that held back the EU was its decision to buy vaccines as a whole instead of individual countries. Although it ensured that smaller member countries weren’t excluded, the move also meant that negotiations with pharmaceutical companies took longer, according to Giovanna de Maio, a visiting fellow at George Washington University in international relations.

She said that the U.S. was more efficient in dispensing the vaccine. They set up large-scale vaccination centers quickly and also supplied shots to nearby pharmacies and grocery stores. The EU, however, initially concentrated on hospitals and other medical facilities.

EU countries were also confident that manufacturers would deliver. Astra-Zeneca didn’t produce its shots in time and only delivered a small number of doses. Skepticism about vaccines was also fueled by concerns over its safety, effectiveness, and efficacy. However, the Pfizer shot was rolled out in large numbers and things changed.

The U.S. vaccine effort reached a peak, but then fell dramatically due to a lot of hesitancy, outright hostility, and misinformation, as well as partisan politics.

The average daily dispensing rate in the U.S. was below 600,000 shots per day as of the end July, a decrease from the April peak of more than 3.4 million. New daily cases of the highly contagious delta variant have risen to unprecedented levels in the past month, reaching levels not seen since February. The majority of hospitalized patients were not vaccinated.

However, not everything is perfect within the EU. There are large differences between the member states. In the Netherlands, for example, at least 85% of adults have had at least one dose. It is lower than 20% in Bulgaria.

It is also possible that Europe’s campaign may be losing steam.

Germany is home to 54% of the world’s population, and the average daily dose of vaccines has fallen from over 1 million in May, when it was more than 1,000,000, to around 500,000 today.

There are incentives and officials pushing for more vaccinations in megastores and city centers. In Thuringia, a vaccination drive included bratwurst for free. Berlin sites planned to host DJs this weekend to encourage young people to get vaccinated.

De Maio stated that she believes that nationwide vaccine mandates, such as the Green Pass program in her native Italy, could help EU countries avoid America’s fate.

She stated that European politicians saw it coming and are taking the necessary measures to prevent any stalling of vaccination efforts in Europe. “They are desperate to avoid that because Europe cannot afford another lockdown, considering the economic toll COVID has already caused.”