Interview on the specifics of the Romanian vaccination campaign, on Bucharest’s plans to vaccinate 10 million people by autumn, on anti-vaccination sentiment and on Romanian vaccination diplomacy in the Republic of Moldova
This interview was broadcast on 16 March 2021 in the emission “Something more” of the Bulgarian National Radio, programme Horizon.
Romania has announced that it continues vaccination with Astra Zeneca, after the country’s authorities decided to continue the immunization campaign against COVID-19 with all products permitted at European level. Now we will talk about the course of the campaign in our northern neighbor in the next few minutes with our colleague Vladimir Mitev – creator of the site for news from Romania and Bulgaria “The Friendship Bridge” and a person knowledgeable about the processes in Romania.
Colleague Mitev, how is Romania coping with the vaccination campaign to date? A question that interests everyone…
If we compare with Bulgaria, all European countries are generally doing better. But in order for the listeners to understand, I will give some examples about the specifics of the Romanian campaign.
What is special there is that the military controls the whole vaccination process. It is performed in special centers and is not done by GPs. An online platform and call center is used to register people.
For some time, it was common practice for employers in companies to register their employees, and in this sense they were somewhat obliged to get vaccinated. But this met with resistance from the Romanian ombudsman and was stopped.
Another peculiarity in Romania, at least compared to Bulgaria, is that there is a lot of emphasis on Pfizer and Moderna vaccines. Asta Zeneca has only recently started being used. Slightly more than 10% of the administered doses are Astra Zeneca. To date, about 1,500,000 people have received at least one dose, and almost half of them have even received two doses. A total of 2,200,000 doses have been administered so far. Slightly more than a million doses fall on Moderna and Astra Zeneca, and the rest are Pfizer.
Another feature is that there are no green corridors in Romania (meaning direct queue, which allow each citizen to vaccinate in spite of his category of risks or essential type of work – note of the translator). The division of different stages in vaccination is observed. Medical workers have been vaccinated in a large percentage – about 90% and among them there are currently very few incidents of infection, which passes also very easily. From March 15, in other words as of yesterday, the third stage of vaccination is underway, which covers the entire population.
I must also point out that there are some problems. Despite the strict organization, some people lined up before their times had come. The Recorder wrote on March 10 that at least 7,000 people had been vaccinated earlier than they should have if they had followed the rules.
What is the reason for this? Did they just decide without realizing that other people needed this thing?
The peculiarity probably comes from the fact that some of the vaccinations take place in military centers. These centers are literally opening for the first time for the mass citizen at this moment. It became clear that relatives of the military have used the advantage of the connection with the army.
Another feature of the Romanian model is that in some places there is a shortage of vaccines, while in other places there is a surplus. One of Romania’s health experts, Vlad Mixich, pointed out that people are forced to register for immunization in a place other than the one in which they live.
Against the background of what you describe in such detail, colleague Mitev, do you think that the goal set by Romania – to vaccinate 10 million people by the end of the summer – is achievable?
In my opinion, it is difficult to achieve if the current rate is maintained, which is about 40,000 doses per day. There will be an improvement in this regard. This month alone, 2,5 million new doses of vaccines will enter. Military vaccination centers are opened to the general public. You also announced that Romania continues with Astra Zeneca and there will be no delay in this regard.
It may be interesting to your listeners that Pfizer has announced that it will transfer part of its vaccine production from Belgium to Romania. So there will be vaccines. The problem I see, which is likely to become more serious as summer approaches, is that many people in Romania are rejecting vaccines. They have an anti-vaccination mood. One of the parliamentary parties supports these anti-vaccination sentiments. In order to reach 10 million vaccinated Romanians, vaccination must both be accelerated and the campaign better communicated with the people.
In this line of thought, let me ask you, because our conversation with you is taking place in the context of an event that was left out of the news spotlight – a protest against immunization. It should be noted that this is not a COVID-19 immunization, but another type of immunization. The protest was against a law that provides for compulsory vaccination. In the end, was I wrong or am I right that there is no connection between the compulsory vaccination bill and immunization against COVID-19?
Indeed, this bill you are talking about relates to the vaccination of children, which becomes mandatory with eight vaccines. For example, against tetanus, small pox, polio. As far as I know, vaccination has been de facto mandatory, ie. it was not officially mandatory, but in order for a child to be enrolled in kindergarten, vaccines had to be made. But from now on, once the law comes into force, as expected, there will be heavy fines for parents who do not send their children for vaccination.
And did these protests yield any results? We know that there were protests. I think they are still going on or have already been stopped…
Protests happen periodically and even constantly. I think there are protests every week in one of the big cities in the country. As far as I know, the bill will enter into force. He just has to go some way in parliament. But he is already in the final meters. Vaccination against the coronavirus remains optional. Nevertheless, the bill is clearly caused by the anti-vaccination sentiments of the population.
Understood. Vaccines are mandatory for children.
Finally, let us comment with you that Romania has donated vaccines to the Republic of Moldova. Some analysts saw this as a gesture to new President Maya Sandu. Others believe that the two countries intend to have a special relationship in the future. What do you think?
I think that the relations between Romania and the Republic of Moldova are not related only with the person of Maya Sandu. Let me remind you that there are one million Romanian citizens in Moldova. A few days ago, the Romanian ambassador to Moldova said that Romanian citizens in that country have the right to use the Romanian online vaccination platform, can register and get vaccinated in Romania.
About the donation. Romania has announced its intention to donate 200,000 doses of Astra Zeneca. But so far it has donated only 20,000 doses, which will be used to vaccinate medical staff in Bessarabia. We need to see if the current doubts about Astra Zeneca will affect this vaccine diplomacy in some form. Moldova is in an intermediate position and has allowed the use of the Russian vaccine. So this plot will develop further.
Thank you! The journalist Vladimir Mitev with information and analysis about the course of the vaccination campaign in Romania and the Republic of Moldova. This is the campaign against COVID-19.
Photo: Vladimir Mitev (source: Vladimir Mitev)
Even though the military doctor Valeriu Gheorghiță coordinates the vaccination campaign against COVID-19 and there are plenty of military vaccination centres, “The National Committee for Coordination of Activities related to Vaccination against COVID-19 is an interministerial organism, which doesn’t have juridical registration, and is directly subordinated to the General Secretary of the guvvernment under the coordination of the prime minister”, therefore the control on the campaign is civil. On the other hand, Pfizer announced that it would move a part of its planning and logistics in Romania, but it remains to be seen if the vaccine production will be moved too, as the prime minister Florin Citu wants.
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