Ministry plan envisages vaccinating high risk groups by March

Photo: Marco Verch, Flickr, CC BY 2.0

The Czech Ministry of Health has presented the details of its coronavirus vaccination plan. Composed of four stages, it will see over 80-year-olds and selected priority groups inoculated first, followed by pensioners and people with relevant health problems. The wider population is expected to start receiving the jab from April.

Health Minister Jan Blatný stepped in front of the cameras on Tuesday afternoon to present the long awaited timeline of the Czech vaccination strategy.

Initial details had already been provided by Prime Minister Andrej Babiš, who said that registration for those over the age of 80 would begin on January 15, followed by the opening up of registration for the general population on February 1.

Mr. Blatný explained the stages in which the government intends to proceed with the vaccinations.

“The plan has four stages. The initial phase, focused on establishing the conditions necessary for vaccination to take place, is now finished. Right now we’re in the second, 1.A, stage. It involves inoculating the most endangered groups in society. It is these groups which are the basic targets of the plan, because vaccinating them will prevent the overloading of the health system.

“This will be followed by phase 1.B, which is the inoculation of further priority groups. Finally, we have phase 2, in which the rest of the population will receive the vaccine.”

Jan Blatný,  photo: ČTK/Kateřina Šulová

Phase 1.A is for the over 80s, care home residents, health care and social care workers. These groups make up roughly 600,000 people and the health minister hopes this stage of the plan should be finished in March at the latest.

The subsequent 1.B phase will make the vaccine available to all people over the age of 65, as well as to other priority groups. These include vital infrastructure personnel, such as soldiers, rescue workers and teachers.

Furthermore, it is in this group that the Ministry of Health has included people with health problems identified as high-risk for COVID-19. These are the obese and people with serious cases of diabetes, lung disease, or kidney and liver problems. The Ministry says the majority of this segment will receive the vaccine from February to March.

The rest of the population, which falls into phase 2, will most likely begin receiving the vaccine from April. However, even among this group a priority sorting of some sort is likely; Health Minister Blatný said that young, healthy people who have registered for the vaccine are most likely to get the jab sometime during the summer.

Those interested in receiving the vaccine will be able to register online into a centralised system, which will ask for relevant personal details, then sort the applicants into their respective group and subsequently provide them with open time slots. Thereafter the applicant will be able to select the date on which he or she wishes to be inoculated.

Vaccination is voluntary and some members of priority groups have already expressed their wish not to receive the vaccine. For example, only 50 percent of fire officers want to get inoculated, according to their spokesman Rudolf Kramář.

However, Mr. Blatný said that he believes the target of vaccinating 65 percent of the population is highly realistic.

“The good news is that according to some of this week’s polls, the number of people who want to get vaccinated is growing. Before the Christmas period it lay at around 45 percent. Now it is around 65.”

The vaccination plan is currently being discussed with the country’s regional governors, who will be able to express amendments until Friday.