Czech Republic launches vaccine registration for over-80s

Photo: ČTK/Václav Šálek

This Friday, January 15, registrations opened for the priority vaccination group of people over the age of 80. A tenth of the relevant population segment registered online within one hour but several people have reported problems in the process such as a delay in registration confirmations. Meanwhile, the Health Ministry is facing a backlash after a report it prioritised its own staff for the vaccine.

The 441,000 people over the age of 80 living in the Czech Republic are the most vulnerable group when it comes to the COVID-19 coronavirus and their inoculation is vital in tackling the epidemic, Health Minister Jan Blatný said earlier in January.

On Friday, the registration process for this group opened in the state’s online vaccination website, which is designed to save applicants in its database and offer them the dates and locations for getting inoculated.

Earlier worries that there will not be enough people interested in the vaccine were at least partly negated when the system experienced 44,000 visitors within just the first hour of its launch.

Andrej Babiš,  photo: ČTK/Ondřej Deml

However, the high demand led to issues with the system as several people people experienced delays when receiving the mobile text confirmation of their registration. This caused anxiety about whether their application had actually been successful.

In a press briefing given at mid-day, Prime Minister Andrej Babiš later told the news site that the crash only occured for five minutes and that the system has been working again since. He called on the media to stop spreading what he called “disinformation”.

“I am asking you again not to say that the registration does not work. It does and well. We currently have 84,951 seniors in the system. If it did not work, they could not have registered.”

He also dismissed complaints made by the Association of Mobile Operators that they had not been notified about the existence of the text system, by saying that the burden on their networks is just the same as it is during New Year celebrations.

Out of the more than 80,000 registered seniors, around 3,000 have so far been able to select their vaccination date. Asked by Czech Radio, the Government Commissioner for Digitization and IT  Vladimír Dzurilla said that this should not be a cause for concern.

Photo: ČTK/Kateřina Šulová

“On Friday we will register anyone over the age of 80 who applies. Some of them will already be able to choose their vaccination date. As further vaccines arrive, there will be more dates available.”

Currently, just 47 of the 164 vaccination centres set up across the country are in the system, but 70,000 Pfizer/BioNTech and 11,600 Moderna vaccines are expected to arrive every week and more centres will become available as they receive the vaccines, according to the website.

Not all vaccines have been used for their intended groups. Earlier this week, the news site Seznam Zprávy broke the story that 1,000 vaccines had been issued to the employees of the State Health Department and their family members. The email offering vaccination dates was sent by the director of the department Pavel Březovský himself according to the news site. He has since resigned.