Vojtěch: Increased vaccination remains the way back to normal, free testing will end as of September

Czech Medical Chamber head says unvaccinated are like stowaways, and they need to buy a ticket to contribute to collective immunity.

Raymond Johnston

Written by Raymond Johnston Published on 15.07.2021 16:51:00 (updated on 15.07.2021) Reading time: 4 minutes

Czech Health Minister Adam Vojtěch and Czech Medical Chamber President Milan Kubek agreed today that vaccination was still the main way to fight coronavirus, which has been spreading again due largely to the more contagious Delta variant.

The Health Ministry plans to send a letter to all insured people soon asking them to be vaccinated. “It will be a more personal request. We will thank those who have already been vaccinated and ask others to be vaccinated,” Vojtěch said.

For the new Delta variant, collective immunity will only be established when about 85 percent of the population is vaccinated. Kubek said unvaccinated people are behaving like stowaways.

“They would like to reap the benefits of collective immunity, but they don't want to contribute to it. We have to try to convince those people to ‘buy their ticket’ and contribute to the others as well," Kubek said.

More places will open in large cities offering vaccination without registration. Two already opened in Prague as a pilot project, and have been far more popular than was anticipated. Hundreds of people waited in line for hours at Westfield Chodov mall, so many that the vaccination center operator asked people to delay their visits until the lines dropped down. There was also high interest at Prague’s main train station Hlavní nádraží, which offers the single-dose Janssen vaccine.

A third center will open in Prague on Monday at the shopping center in Smíchov. Centers are also planned for Brno, Ostrava, Hradec Králové, and Kolín. Separately, Prague City Hall has started a project to vaccinate the homeless and uninsured with a mobile station.

“I have to say that we are very much agreed that the steps taken by the Health Ministry are correct and the Medical Chamber supports them,” Vojtěch said at a briefing after the meeting, adding that there would be a large promotion of vaccination.

”We have a common position that vaccination is the only way to a normal life,” Vojtěch said.

He added that vaccination so far has worked. Of the 4 million people who are fully vaccinated with two doses, only 4,030 became infected with coronavirus after the second dose. After 14 days, when even according to the manufacturers the maximum protection occurs, the infection rate is only six-hundredths of a percent of those vaccinated.

"It is clear that no vaccine in the world protects 100 percent. We cannot expect that no one will get infected at all," Vojtěch said.

According to him, vaccination eliminates especially severe cases so people will not have to go to hospitals. He said about one hundredth of one percent of those vaccinated have a mild course of the disease, and even fewer have a severe course. “It's really hundredths of a percent, so the vaccination really works," he said.

Kubek added that 83 percent of all doctors, 75 percent of nurses, and 70 percent of other medical staff have been vaccinated. “No doctors have been infected in the last seven days," he said. Overall, he said, about 77,000 health workers have fallen ill, including 12,000 doctors. At the turn of October and November, more than 17,500 were infected at once.

"The unvaccinated doctors are overwhelmingly not refusers. Often they are people who have had Covid, had their antibodies boosted, and don't want to be vaccinated yet," Kubek said.

Vojtěch said young and healthy people should also be vaccinated, even though the disease is often not as severe in younger people. “If they become infected, they may go on to infect someone who is at risk. Maybe someone who cannot even get vaccinated for health reasons,” he said, adding that this is why collective immunity needs to be created.

Vojtěch stands behind the position that testing in the long run cannot be covered by public health insurance, and with a few exceptions the coverage should stop as of Sept. 1.

Kubek agrees on ending widescale free testing. He said tests should only be provided to children who cannot be vaccinated and in justified cases such as returning to work. Testing can’t be repeatedly used by people who refuse to get vaccinated but want to use services or go to events. "[Insurance] can't pay for people to have tests just so they can go to a concert," he said.

As of the morning of July 15, some 4,040,306 have completed their vaccination, with 3,938,491 having two doses of vaccine and 101,815 having the single-dose Janssen vaccine from Johnson & Johnson. There are 10.65 million people in the Czech Republic, so the number of fully vaccinated people is 38 percent.

In total, 9,252,732 doses of vaccine have been administered since the start of vaccination at the end of 2020. Some 82.6 percent of the doses administered have been Pfizer/BioNTech, while Moderna is at 8.7 percent and AstraZeneca at 8.6 percent. The single-dose Janssen vaccine is only at 1.1 percent.

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