As vaccination campaigns falter, CEE countries get creative
In Romania, vaccination rates have practically collapsed in recent weeks. Experts attribute the decline in interest to skepticism about vaccines, especially in rural areas. Romania only vaccinated around 4.8 million people out of a total population of over 19 million people.
As demand for vaccines gradually declined, authorities resorted to strategies to boost vaccination, establishing vaccination centers at Bucharest International Airport and even offering free snacks – portions of here – popular grilled minced meat rolls – in the markets.
They also promote vaccination at major tourist sites such as Dracula’s Castle in Transylvania, which Romanian and European tourists can visit without paying if they take a vaccine at the same time.
In Croatia, where 37.3% of the total population has been vaccinated, authorities in northern Krapina-Zagorje County have encouraged citizens to get vaccinated by distributing free daily tickets to local spas and thermal baths.
At the end of June, the Croatian Institute of Public Health organized a free concert by famous musician Djani Stipanicev who sang for vaccinated fans after publicly receiving his second jab.
In Slovakia, a country of 5.5 million people, less than 1.7 million have received both vaccines so far.
One-off payments for brokers who persuade people to get vaccinated and an exclusive lottery for those vaccinated were approved by Slovakia’s parliament last week, fearing the country would soon run out of people waiting for vaccines.
A weekly lottery with a prize of 2 million euros will be organized for all Slovaks vaccinated, while a fee of 30 to 90 euros will also be available for “intermediaries” who persuade others to get vaccinated.
The fees they earn will depend on the age of the persuaded person; the older they are, the more money the broker earns.
“We have refrigerators full of vaccines but very few people are lining up to get them,” complained Slovak Finance Minister Igor Matovic, who proposed the two measures last Friday.
In the Czech Republic, more than 3.5 million people out of a population of 10.6 million received both doses of the vaccine while more than 5 million received a vaccine.
Since the end of May, people who have received only their first dose are considered “non-infectious” if at least three weeks have passed since their first vaccine.
This allows them to skip the regular tests before entering hair salons, group events or restaurant terraces. It also makes it easier for vaccinated people to travel and stay in hotels that still require negative test results.
In Poland, where 14 million out of 39.7 million people have been fully vaccinated, a national lottery for people who register for the vaccine has also been launched.
This offers thousands of small cash prizes, weekly and monthly prizes, and two top prizes – a car and a one million zloty cash prize, equivalent to some 200,000 euros.
In the predominantly Catholic country, Health Minister Adam Niedzielski recently said “a new push is needed” on vaccination rates, and “Church authority could help a lot”.