Covid-19: Czech premier, health minister and WWII vet among first to get vaccinated

Photo: ČTK/Deml Ondřej

Prime Minister Andrej Babiš and a 95-year-old veteran of the Second World War were among the first people in the Czech Republic on Sunday to receive a coronavirus vaccine. In the coming days, some 10,000 people, mainly medical professionals and seniors, will roll up their sleeves to get inoculated.

Andrej Babiš,  photo: ČTK/Deml Ondřej

Ahead of getting a shot in the arm live on camera, Mr Babiš told a news conference that he hoped to lead by example and be among the first to receive the vaccine from Pfizer and BioNTech, the first approved for use in the European Union.

“We’ve had a different kind of Christmas. And ahead of us is a different kind of New Year’s Eve than we are used to. This year was without doubt the worst in our modern history. Not only did many of our fellow citizens die, the coronavirus has negatively impacted all our lives. The vaccine which arrived last night from the European Union gives us hope – hope that life will return to normal...

Photo: ČTK/Deml Ondřej

“On the news last night, I saw a woman interviewed who said she would ‘wait for Babiš’ until getting vaccinated herself. That fear is one reason I decided to set an example and get vaccinated [publicly] in hospital because of course on social media, a lot of fake news circulating. But people should not be afraid.”

The first 9,750 doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine arrived in the Czech Republic at the weekend with another 20,000 due within a week. In total, the government has ordered enough doses to inoculate 8.95 million people, or 85 percent of the population, said Health Minister Jan Blatný, who was also vaccinated on Sunday.

Jan Blatný,  photo: ČTK/Šálek Václav

“This will be one of the biggest logistical operations in history, certainly since the Second World War. The vaccination will take place in several phases. It depends on how many doses the Czech Republic receives, and how quickly they arrive. We are in the same situation as other European Union countries. Today’s initial phase was a clear symbol that all 27 EU countries will receive it.”

More than 350,000 people in the EU have died from Covid-19 since the first fatality was recorded in France in mid-February. As in the Czech Republic on Sunday, across the bloc, heads of state and government, health ministers, older people and those who care for them were among the first inoculated.

Photo: ČTK / Ondřej Deml

According to the Czech government strategy announced in mid-December, over the first two or three months, vaccinations will go to people over 65 or with serious preconditions and front line medical workers. Next will be other professionals in the healthcare and social services sector, as well as those working in critical state infrastructure.

The process should take nine months, Mr Babiš said on Sunday at the Central Military Hospital, one of three hospitals in Prague and one in Brno to both receive and administer the first doses. Currently, there are only 31 designated vaccination centres he noted, but many more are to be added in short order.