Only about 15,000 people have been vaccinated for COVID-19 in the Czech Republic, former Minister of Health Roman Prymula said on Czech TV. Furthermore, Prymula added that the central information system that is to collect data is not working yet. At this time, mainly medical staff and seniors are vaccinated in hospitals or retirement homes. Prymula himself is to receive the vaccine as a doctor on Jan. 7. So far, seven people have reported adverse effects of the vaccine, according to the State Institute for Drug Control (SÚKL). Regarding the development of the epidemic, Roman Prymula said he expects a further increase in the number of new cases until Jan. 15, after which they will culminate. Last week, the highest number of daily positive tests was recorded, reaching almost 17,000. The numbers in the second half of December were significantly affected by the Christmas holidays when less testing was performed. On Sunday, there were 6,220 positive people, which is the most on a weekend day since Nov. 1.
“Let’s wait for the data from the next two days. I’m waiting for Tuesday and Wednesday,” Prymula said. According to him, it can be expected that the numbers could reach 20,000 positive cases on a working day. He said the burden on hospitals could be even higher than in the last wave at the turn of October and November. The current measures against the spread of the disease may not be enough, Prymula stressed. If the situation does not improve, massive testing and rapid isolation of positive individuals must begin, which is now not entirely successful, he said, pointing to the high proportion of positive cases among those tested. “The situation will be difficult at least until March,” he predicted. During the summer holidays, Prymula expects a regime similar to last year, and according to him, life could return to normal after September. Prime Minister Andrej Babiš said during the weekend that people over the age of 80 will be able to register for vaccination from mid-January, while other people will be able to register from February. They will receive the exact date later as the system will evaluate it according to age or medical condition. General Health Insurance Company (VZP) said that people could be vaccinated by general practitioners in March at the earliest. According to Prymula, the Czech Republic will have two million doses per month in April, May, and June. “It will be about 80,000 doses a day. Then you can’t just rely on hospitals or general practitioners,” the former minister said. According to him, the first people who are not in risk groups will probably also be vaccinated in April. Among the side effects of the vaccine that were reported to the State Institute for Drug Control were headache, muscle and joint pain, chills, and pain at the injection site. According to experts, these are expected reactions, which usually disappear within a few hours. “SÚKL did not record any reports of life-threatening conditions. Two of those reactions could be assessed as being completely allergic. But both of those people were fine after an hour or two and went home,” SÚKL director Irena Storová said. Each person needs two doses of most vaccines being developed.
Abroad, it is being debated whether it is not better to vaccinate as many people as possible in one dose and protect them at least partially than fewer people to more than 90 percent. According to Prymula, this is a matter for discussion that he can imagine, but said he will refuse to vaccinate people with two doses of different vaccines. Before the end of the year, the Ministry of Health allowed up to six vaccines to be obtained from one vial of vaccine from Pfizer and BioNTech, which is the only one approved in the EU so far. There is enough substance in it, but the manufacturer expected losses during application. Thanks to this, more vaccines will have to be shipped to the Czech Republic. About 32,600 have arrived so far and more are expected on Thursday and then every week. After thawing the vaccine, five or six doses from the vial should be used quickly. “I can imagine that ‘volunteers’ will be waiting to be vaccinated in large vaccination centers,” Prymula added. According to his proposal, these people will wait on the phone in case someone slated for vaccination does not come, in which case the vaccine would expire if not utilized.
Title image: A hospital employee receives a vaccine against COVID-19 at the military hospital in Prague, Czech Republic, Sunday, Dec. 27, 2020. (AP Photo/Petr David Josek)