Romania to start destroying expired COVID-19 vaccines as vaccination numbers drop
Romania could start destroying some of the COVID-19 vaccines received earlier this year as they are set to expire while the population's interest in vaccination has dropped significantly.
After a strong start of the vaccination campaign, Romania has seen a slowdown over the last two months and is now among the last in the EU in terms of vaccination rates. While people living in the big cities were more willing to get vaccinated, almost half of Romania's population is living in rural areas, where interest in vaccination is very low.
As a result, Romania now holds a surplus of vaccines and will start to destroy some of the unused doses received earlier this year as they will expire soon. About a week ago, the authorities asked the suppliers to send fewer COVID-19 vaccines than planned for the same reason.
Doctor Valeriu Gheorghita, the coordinator of the national vaccination campaign, said on Thursday, June 24, that Romania would destroy 35,000 doses of AstraZeneca vaccine due to expire on June 30, Digi24 reported.
A few days before, Gheorghita had told Digi24 that Romania would try to redistribute or sell the vaccine doses that were about to expire.
Also as a result of the Romanians' reduced interest in vaccination, dozens of vaccination centres have shut down while others have reduced their program to a few hours a day or a few days a week. The medical teams working at these centres are set to join the program aimed at boosting access to COVID-19 vaccines in rural areas.
"According to data centralized the day before […], 45 vaccination centres have temporarily suspended activity, another 136 vaccination points have temporarily suspended activity in the centres that are still active - these centres had several vaccination points, and their number has been practically reduced to allow the detachment of mobile teams that will ensure vaccination in rural areas-, and 314 vaccination centres have reduced their working hours from 12 hours to 6 hours, or even 4 hours," Valeriu Gheorghita said on June 24, according to News.ro.
According to Gheorghita, more than 62,300 people have been vaccinated within the "The city vaccinates the village" program. This action, together with the authorities' initiative to condition access to some events only for vaccinated people, is aimed at reviving the vaccination campaign and accelerating the vaccination rates. However, these measures are yet to show their results.
The vaccination campaign coordinator also said that approximately 25% of Romania's eligible population had received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine so far, News.ro reported. More than 4.6 million people are now vaccinated in the country, and most of them (over 4.4 million) are fully vaccinated. The highest vaccination rates were reported in Bucharest and the counties of Cluj, Sibiu, Brasov, and Timis.
The Government missed its intermediate target of having 5 million people vaccinated by June and it is highly unlikely that it will reach the stated goal of having 10 million Romanians vaccinated by fall.
According to the official report released on Thursday, only 25,599 people received a COVID-19 vaccine in 24 hours, and only 11,224 of them got their first dose. The figure represents about a quarter of the number reported in early May, for example - more than 100,000 people vaccinated in one day.
Data from the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control also come to confirm that the vaccination campaign is not going as planned in Romania. According to the EU agency's COVID-19 Vaccine Tracker, Romania has one of the lowest vaccination rates in the European Union. For example, Romania's cumulative uptake of at least one vaccine dose among adults is below 30%, compared to an average of 57.4% in the EU/EEA.
In related news, prime minister Florin Citu announced that the EU digital certificate for travel would be available starting July 1.
(Photo source: Gov.ro)