Covid-19 vaccinations only weeks away, but is the Czech public ready

Published: 20.12.2020 Related countries:  Sweden Sweden

The Czech Republic, like other EU member states, is awaiting approval from the European Medicines Agency (EMA) to begin vaccinating against Covid-19.

Minister of Health Jan Blatný says that should come in a matter of weeks, and the first shots could be administered here in late January. But are people willing to get the shots? And is the country ready to handle the logistics?

The Czech government officially adopted a strategy on Monday that envisages vaccinating 1 million people in the first quarter of 2021, 2.62 million in the second, 2.42 million in the third. That amounts to roughly half of the population by October of next year.

Health Minister Jan Blatný has set a target of inoculating at least two-thirds of the population, ideally. At the moment, however, polls show that only about 40 percent of Czechs would voluntarily get the vaccine. That resistance, and not the logistics, presents the real challenge, says Dr Miloslav Janulík, deputy chairman of the lower house’s health committee.

“From my perspective, we are ready. Vaccinations could be done today in general practitioners’ surgeries, for children and adults alike. There is no difference between administering a flu shot, a vaccination against yellow fever or coronavirus.

“Doctors and specialised centres do vaccinations daily. It is more complicated to see a doctor right now, but they do have systems in place. The real problem is that a large part of the population may resist getting vaccinated. But when ‘D-day’ and ‘H-hour’ are set, all general practitioners will receive a simple vaccination plan and instructions.”

Dr Janulík, a member of Prime Minister Andrej Babiš’s ANO party, was speaking during a regular debate programme on Czech Radio. His counterpart on the show, was Dr Vlastimil Válek, vice chairman of the opposition party TOP 09, who sits on the same parliamentary health committee.

For his part, Dr Válek agrees that vaccinations should be a routine exercise. But in his view, the government has failed to educate the general population and dispel misinformation and disinformation about vaccinations, which circulate widely on social media.

“I can’t think of a country, apart from Belarus, where an awareness campaign will not take place. It should have already begun here. I had agreed with the former health minister to prepare a campaign and refute disinformation. But the effort was shelved when Jan Blatný was named health minister. In this regard, the health ministry has failed.

“I’m not an advertising expert, but the prime minister has many of them. Election campaigns do not start a week before the vote. They start far in advance. The same should go for the coronavirus vaccine. The information campaign must launch in time. If it comes in February, it will be far too late.”

According to the government’s strategy, vaccinations against Covid-19 will first got to people over 65 or with serious preconditions, and front line medical workers, followed by other health professionals, and people working in social services or critical state infrastructure.

The vaccination drive coordinator, Zdeněk Blahuta, Executive Director of the European Federation of Pharmacies, said sees no reason why it cannot be achieved within eight or nine months.

The Article was published by the collective of CzechTrade Stockholm Source: https://english.radio.cz/covid-19-vaccinations-only-weeks-away-czech-public-ready-8702662

Author: Brian Kenety