21st Apr 2021

Uneven supply sees Romanians hitting road for Covid jab

  • As slots filled up quickly in Bucharest, more Romanians had to schedule their Covid-19 immunisation outside their place of residence with some controversial albeit amusing improvisations (Photo: Nathan Forget)

A man from the capital, Bucharest, travelled almost 1,000km to Botoşani, a county in northern Romania, to get his Covid-19 vaccine.

Others, also unable to book vaccine slots in Bucharest, have criss-crossed the country to vaccination centres hundreds of kilometres away to avoid the long waits.

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  • Those who want to get the jab have to register and book a place on the government-run vaccination platform

On 15 March, Romania kicked off the third phase of the vaccination campaign targeting the general population.

Those who want to get the jab have to register and book a place on the government-run vaccination platform at the clinic nearest to them - which, for many in large urban areas, proved impossible to do.

As slots filled up quickly in Bucharest and other major cities, and more and more Romanians had to schedule their Covid-19 immunisation outside their place of residence, some controversial albeit amusing improvisations occurred.

In the scramble for the next available slot, 2,000 youngsters from Bucharest ended up booking a place at a clinic organised in a retirees' club, in the small city of Fetesti, 150km from Romania's capital city.

Speaking to EUobserver, the mayor of Feteşti said that priority should have be given to locals, and only after that to those coming from outside.

"These vaccination centres are set up with local public funds and I believe that locals should have been vaccinated first. Now, thanks to those coming from outside the city, the people of Feteşti are without available slots and have to go to the neighbouring county to get the shot", said mayor Laurențiu Șonchereche.

Some citizens, however, have questioned how vaccines stocks have been distributed across the country, some saying that this issue generated the movement of people - which can only help spread the virus.

Vlad Mixich, health expert and European Parliament representative to the European Agency for Safety and Health at Work, said in a Facebook post that it was hard to understand the rationale behind vaccine distribution in Romania.

Namely, how some scarcely-populated communes got stock of thousands and thousands of vaccines, when the massively unmet demand is elsewhere, such as big cities 100-150 km away where there are zero stocks.

"Not only do you force thousands of people to make long journeys, but you also ship those thousands of doses to different communes for nothing", he said.

Sociologist Barbu Mateescu told EUobserver that authorities cannot know exactly how many people live in a certain area, and that the issue is also with inaccurate demographic data that vaccine distribution relies on.

"Because of internal and external migration, the Romanian state can't have an accurate picture of how many people inhabit a particular region. The current population registration system is tailored for a much more settled society, with a much lower mobility. The system was designed during communism".

EUobserver asked representatives of the vaccination campaign and the ministry of defence involved in vaccine delivery for comment, but did not get a response by the time of publication.

Romania has dropped sharply over the course of a few weeks in the vaccination-ranking, from second place at EU level to sixth. In the global ranking, Romania dropped from sixth place on 23 February to 17th place now.

Local authorities said this is due to shifting variables, including the vaccine delivery in late February.

The vaccination campaign in Romania started at the end of December, with the first phase targeting medical professionals, while the elderly, vulnerable persons and essential workers were able to get the vaccine during the second phase.

Author bio

Cristian Gherasim is a freelance journalist contributing to EUobserver, Euronews, EU Reporter, Katoikos, Von Mises Institute, and bne IntelliNews, with a particular focus on European and regional affairs.

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