PM Babiš first in line as Czechia starts COVID-19 vaccinations

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On Sunday early morning, Czechia started COVID-19 vaccinations, with the first doses of the vaccine being administered to Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babiš and war veteran Emilia Řepíková. The 9,750 doses of vaccine from Pfizer and BioNTech, which is so far the only vaccine registered for use in the European Union, were distributed among four Prague and two Brno hospitals. Before the vaccination began, Babiš said that the vaccine presents hope for returning to normal life after the worst year in modern history, according to Echo24 . He also stated that Czechia exercised an option with Pfizer to purchase an additional 4 million doses, making it a total of 8 million doses. Altogether, Czechia will receive 15.9 million doses of approved vaccines for 8.95 million people, Babiš said.

The prime minister expects the vaccination to continue for the next nine months. The first person to get vaccinated in the city of Brno was Minister of Health Jan Blatný, who used to work at the Brno University Hospital before taking the post of the health minister. In his Christmas speech broadcasted on several TV programs on Saturday, President Miloš Zeman also called on all citizens to get vaccinated against COVID-19. According to him, people should not listen to those who refuse to wear face masks and act as if the epidemic did not exist. The Czech president stressed that the vaccination is a “dawn on the horizon”. “I would like to urge all citizens to get vaccinated and not pay attention to those who call for not wearing face masks, not getting vaccinated, and living life as if the epidemic did not exist,” Zeman said. According to him, the Czech Republic handled the first wave of the epidemic in the spring well thanks to the then Deputy Minister and later Minister of Health Roman Prymula. “But then we fell asleep on the laurels and thought we had suppressed the epidemic. The opposition thought so and called for the relaxation of measures, the government thought so and, above all, the whole public wanted it to be true,” he said.

As a result, there was a second wave in the autumn, worse than the previous one, Zeman added. “Only a fool repeats the same mistake twice, while an intelligent person makes entirely new mistakes. That’s why I don’t think we should be tempted to call for further relaxation of measures, however popular such a move might be,” he said. “Of course, the epidemic has left significant marks on our economy. On the other hand, the core of our economy, namely industry, construction, and agriculture, has remained almost intact, while most of the problems affect the services sector,” Zeman continued. He further appreciated that Czechia found the courage to borrow money. “We have invested these debts in helping companies that might otherwise go bankrupt,” he said, adding that he believes that real entrepreneurs will be able to use the financial aid to revive their companies and bring them back to prosperity. “In any case, I would like to thank once again our medics, firefighters, police, and soldiers in the fight against the epidemic,” he stated. Furthermore, he thanked the government, which, he said, did a great job despite being a target of the media and the opposition. Title image: World War II veteran Emilie Repikova, left, watches as Czech Republic’s Prime Minister Andrej Babis receives a vaccine against COVID-19 at the military hospital in Prague, Czech Republic, Sunday, Dec. 27, 2020. (AP Photo/Petr David Josek)

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