Despite delivery issues, Czech PM sets target of 100,000 jabs per day in April

Photo: ČTK/David Taneček

Key population groups in the Czech Republic have received over a million coronavirus vaccine jabs so far and the latest indicators suggest that the epidemic may be on a slightly downward trend. The government is aiming to increase daily vaccinations to up to 100,000 in April, according to Prime Minister Andrej Babiš. However, progress varies from region to region, with some having to put their vaccination targets on hold amid low stockpiles.

Over 1,080,000 doses of various coronavirus vaccines have so far been administered in the Czech Republic, according to Ministry of Health data released on Monday. The recipients are mainly over 70-year-olds and key infrastructure personnel, such as health workers and teachers. In total, 300,000 people have already received the necessary two doses.

The daily vaccination rate hit its peak last week, with over 50,000 doses administered on Thursday alone. However, some GPs were still not able to start vaccinating on Monday, because they had not yet received the necessary deliveries.

One issue is the sudden decrease in planned AstraZeneca vaccine deliveries. For the Czech Republic this means that instead of the 201,000 doses originally set to be delivered by the end of March, the number will be closer to 120,000. Only 10,000 of these are set to arrive this week.

In his regular Sunday video address, Prime Minister Andrej Babiš said that if the country had not received a delivery of Pfizer vaccines last week, it would have no doses left. He called on the Ministry of Health to consider extending the period between which patients receive doses of a vaccine.

Andrej Babiš in Israel,  March 11,  2021,  photo: ČTK/AP/Abir Sultan

“I think that the Ministry of Health should start looking into longer intervals between the first and second dose of the vaccine. These are currently 21 days with Pfizer, 28 days with Moderna and 12 days with AstraZeneca. The Czech Vaccinology Association says that this could be extended to up to 41 days with the Pfizer vaccine, 42 days with Moderna and up to 84 to 91 days with AstraZeneca.

“In Israel they are also vaccinating those who have had COVID-19 with just one dose. It would be good if the Health Ministry took this into consideration.”

The prime minister was optimistic about speeding up the vaccination process. He said that the current target is to increase the number of daily injections to as much as 100,000 from April 6.

Mr. Babiš also joined six other EU prime ministers in writing an open letter to European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen call for vaccines to be distributed to member countries equally, based on relative population size. The commission has since replied that it is up to member states to find an agreement on this.

Despite vaccine-related complications, the latest data suggests that the country may be slowly on its way out of the worst phase of its epidemic crisis. Sunday saw the lowest number of newly detected cases since mid-February, while the reproduction number fell to 0.94. Nevertheless, the number of patients requiring hospitalization and intensive care is still very high.