Amid Slow Rollout, Czech Republic Athletes Create Own Covid-19 Vaccination Centre

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Annoyed by the slow vaccine rollout in Czech Republic, members of a sports organisation have collected money, hired doctors and nurses and opened their own vaccination centre. The centre, in a gym in the small town of Dobrichovice southwest of Prague, can provide around 700 Covid-19 vaccines a day under the national health insurance system.

“It emerged out of complaints about the situation as the Czech state was not able to adequately react to the entire pandemic, including vaccination,” said Jiri Geissler, the mastermind behind the project.

Geissler is deputy head of the local branch of Sokol, a sports organisation founded in 1862 known for holding mass gymnastic shows in Prague.

It provided the gym and technical assistance.

With one of the highest global rankings for Covid-19 deaths and infections per capita, the Czech Republic has reported more than 1.5 million cases and over 26,000 Covid-related deaths.

The EU member of 10.7 million people has given jabs to more than 1,500,000 people, lagging behind its own targets also because of slow supplies mediated by the EU.

The Dobrichovice centre is not linked to any health facility but it does depend on vaccine distribution by the state.

It had to go on stand-by last week when the supply dried up.

The centre is officially run by local dentist Martin Rusnak.

“I’m on the afternoon shift at work so I can be here in the morning,” he said.

– ‘Here for the entire country’ –

The centre depends on volunteers, including pensioners, mothers on maternity leave, students, jobseekers or those who cannot work because their workplaces are closed.

“We ran ads in local papers and got about 300-350 answers from 30-40 doctors, around 50 nurses and the rest were administrative staff,” Geissler told AFP.

Rusnak said he expected the centre to make money at some point owing to payments from health insurers.

“We want to reimburse the people who work here to make it attractive when they’ve given us the time,” Rusnak told AFP.

“If there’s any money left, we are determined to spend it on charity in the town or the region.” 

Having come from a nearby town, pensioner Ruzena Filipova rested under a blacked-out scoreboard after being vaccinated, holding a lollipop she was given for being a good patient.

“I thought I would spend half a day here and it’s going really fast, it’s well organised,” she said.

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Geissler said the centre had already served patients from more remote places.

“We’ve had people from Brno, tomorrow we’ll have a lady from (the eastern town of) Havirov. We’re here for the entire country,” he said.

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