Romania prioritizes homeless people in vaccination drive
Alec Fenn
Homeless people are exposed to infection risk, government ministers say. /VCG/Getty Creative.

Homeless people are exposed to infection risk, government ministers say. /VCG/Getty Creative.

Romania has vaccinated nearly 300 homeless people against COVID-19 after making those without homes one of the priority groups in its vaccination campaign.

The country's health authorities revealed the figure on Saturday and explained why the homeless are being given protection along with other vulnerable segments of the population.

"These people are among the most exposed to infection risk," said junior health minister Andrei Baciu. "It's hard for most of them to follow infection control measures."

Romania didn't initially plan to prioritize homeless people but changed its approach after the government came under pressure from several charities and is now following a similar system to Denmark.

People sleeping rough are on par with the over-65s, chronically ill people and teachers, and just below health workers. Mobile vaccination teams have visited shelters in several towns and cities, including the capital Bucharest, over the past few days.

More than 1,300 people are registered as homeless in Romania – with the real number estimated to be several times larger; 282 of them have received a first vaccine dose and 246 have had both.

One vaccination official said the government "wants to reach any homeless people who want to be immunized" and will keep up the program in the coming days.

But vaccinating the homeless is no easy task. According to Marian Ursan, who works for the homeless charity Carusel in Bucharest, many people living on the streets don't have access to reliable information about the safety of vaccines and often distrust jabs.

With almost 20,000 COVID-19 deaths among its 19 million people, Romania has so far given  771,000 jabs since late December. Around 224,000 people have received one dose and 547,000 both doses.

Source(s): AFP

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