Czechia shies away from mandatory vaccination

As COVID-19 cases continue to reach record heights, it appears the new leadership is seeking to calm anti-vax groups in the hope more people will take the jab voluntarily. [Shutterstock / BaLL LunLa]

The new Czech government has decided it will not make COVID-19 vaccination mandatory, Prime Minister Petr Fiala (ODS) announced this week, saying his cabinet does not wish to “widen divisions within society”.

As COVID-19 cases continue to reach record heights, it appears the new leadership is seeking to calm anti-vax groups in the hope more people will take the jab voluntarily.

As planned by the previous government of Andrej Babis’ ANO and the Social Democrats, COVID-19 vaccines were supposed to be mandatory for medical workers, policemen and everyone over 60 as of March. This has now been scrapped.

As many European states decide to reduce COVID-19 restrictions, introducing mandatory vaccines is becoming more difficult and politically risky for others.

However, as the European Commission admits, the pandemic might not be over yet, and vaccination remains crucial.

About two-thirds or 63% of Czechs are vaccinated, while 32% have received their booster shot. Interest among young people and the elderly is declining, however. To boost numbers, a lot of hope is set in the much-awaited “traditionally made” Novavax vaccine, which might also be better equipped to fight off the Omicron variant. Czechia should receive the first doses within weeks.

On 18 January, there was a record of over 28,000 new daily COVID-19 cases in the 10 million-strong country.  While experts expect the current wave to weaken in February, the government does not want to relax the restrictions just yet.

On Wednesday, it approved an amendment to the country’s pandemic law, allowing the cabinet to enact quarantine and isolation measures or limit dance club attendance. Further COVID-19 measures are being prepared, such as allowing booster doses for children above 12.

(Ondřej Plevák | EURACTIV.cz)

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