Monday

27th Sep 2021

Romania selling on its jabs, despite low vaccination rates

  • In Romania, some 25 percent of the population has received at least one dose of vaccine, two months behind deadline, while Bulgaria fares even worse, with just 17 percent of its population vaccinated (Photo: imf.org)

Europe's least-vaccinated countries are in no short supply of Covid-19 jabs - and yet Romania and Bulgaria are both looking for opportunities to sell their excess vaccines which they are not able to administer to their own population.

This is happening at a time when the rest of Europe fears both higher vaccines prices and the surge of the more-contagious Delta variant of the virus.

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To avoid unused stocks of vaccines from hitting expiration date, Romania recently secured a deal with Ireland.

The Irish prime minister posted on his Twitter account a message announcing an agreement with Romania for the purchase of 700,000 additional doses of Covid-19 vaccines.

The vaccines are to be delivered to Ireland over the course of August and will be provided directly from Pfizer, in the form of a redistribution of doses originally ordered by Romania.

Ireland, looking to slow the spread of the Delta variant of coronavirus, currently has one of the highest rates of vaccination in Europe, with 73.8 percent of its adult population of 3.8 million receiving both doses.

Prior to the deal with Ireland, the south-eastern European nation also sold another 1.1 million doses of the BioNTech/Pfizer vaccine to Denmark.

In a statement issued by the Danish minister of health, Magnus Heunicke explained that Romania wanted to sell surplus doses because demand for vaccines among its population is low.

As vaccination numbers drop, Romanian authorities have donated nearly half a million vaccines to the neighbouring Moldova, as well to Serbia and Ukraine.

Last month president Klaus Iohannis also announced that Romania will make a donation of 100,000 doses of Covid-19 vaccines to Vietnam.

Bulgaria is also donating its unused vaccines mainly to neighbouring western Balkan countries.

Earlier this summer health minister Stoicho Katsarov said that 150,000 jabs, mostly AstraZeneca, will be given free of charge to countries in the region - particularly to North Macedonia, Albania, Kosovo and Bosnia.

With many Bulgarians also shunning the vaccines, the Balkan nation is looking outside Europe for places to donate thousands of vaccines. The government in Sofia announced that the remote kingdom of Bhutan will receive 172,500 doses of AstraZeneca jab.

Romania officials announced that 25 percent (5,024,979) of the population has received at least one dose of vaccine, two months behind the deadline set by the current government.

The country lags behind the majority of other European nations, that have managed to inoculate between 60 and 90 percent of the adult population.

At EU level, only Bulgaria is in a worse spot, with 17.3 percent of its population vaccinated.

For comparison, the EU countries with the highest number of fully-vaccinated people are Malta (84.8 percent), Belgium (74.6 percent), Portugal (68.2 percent), Luxembourg (67.4 percent) and Spain (67.3 percent) - with Spain having the largest share of people who are fully-vaccinated against Covid-19 out of the world's 50 most-populated nations.

Meanwhile, the European Commission has announced that 70 percent of EU adults have received at least one dose of COVID vaccine.

Why so low?

Plummeting vaccine interest in both Romania and Bulgaria comes from a long-standing mistrust in authorities, vaccines scepticism, as well as officials' poor approach in dealing with the virus.

According to data provided by researchers at the Babes-Bolyai University, Romania was the first in the EU when it comes to lifting restrictions and "relaxation measures", but next-to-last in terms of vaccination rates.

Others argue that a 'triumphalist' approach of authorities deterred some people from taking the jab.

In Romania, both the prime minister and the president have stated many times that the virus is contained, claiming a successful vaccination campaign - despite the unmet targets and low inoculation rate.

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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