Thursday, 21 April 2022

€163m Scheme for Construction of Kindergartens for 22,500 Kids Presented

ZAGREB, 21 April 2022 - A HRK 1.22 billion (€163 million) scheme for the construction and equipment of kindergartens, the aim of which is to create 22,500 new kindergarten places was presented by Prime Minister Andrej Plenković on Thursday.

By the end of 2026, we intend to create conditions so that 90% of children aged three or more can participate in early and preschool education before going to school, which will enable a better educational outcome for children, and Croatia will catch up with the world and Europe, Plenković told a press conference.

In Croatia, the participation rate in preschool education is still among the lowest in the European Union.

In the 2004-2016 period, the number of children attending regular kindergarten or nursery programs in Croatia rose by 37.2%, while the number of kindergartens increased by 34.7%.

Since 2017, the government has invested HRK 2 billion in 498 kindergartens in Croatia, and with these investments, the total amount will reach HRK 3.43 billion, said Plenković.

The achieved level is still significantly below the "Barcelona objectives" of having 33% of children under three years of age and 90% of children between three years old and the mandatory school age covered by education programs, that is, the goal of the European Education Area to have 96% of children between three years of age and primary school to be covered by preschool programs.

(€1= HRK 7.5)

For more, check out our politics section.

Wednesday, 16 March 2022

Nightclubs in Croatia to Work Again? Capak Comments on Mitigating Covid Measures

March 16, 2022 - Nightclubs in Croatia could soon reopen as epidemiological measures in the country will be mitigated. 

COVID certificates are decreasingly sought after in institutions, and Croatia seeks to ease measures this week. Dnevnik Nova TV reporter Martina Bolšec Oblak is the first to find out the details from director of the CNIPH Krunoslav Capak.

Mitigating epidemiological measures have been announced in Croatia. 

"We have always paid attention to the balance between the economy, social life, and epidemiological measures that allow the epidemic to be kept under control as much as possible. All that remains are a few measures. What we can do is increase the number of people at gatherings. So far, it was 50 (indoors) or 100 (outdoors), now we will increase it to 100 or 200, and with COVID certificates, the number will be unlimited. Still, everyone should adhere to epidemiological measures," said the director of the CNIPH, Krunoslav Capak.

For the time being, catering facilities are only open until midnight, but changes could be introduced in that sector as well.

"We are thinking of extending that time because it allows nightclubs, slot machine clubs, and so on longer working hours. So it will probably be until 2 am. It is also being discussed, and a decision will be made in the next 24 to 48 hours," he said.

Sport and culture are also in the package.

"We will make some concessions when it comes to sporting and cultural events. For example, we will allow stadiums to be full with COVID certificates, and if they don't have certificates, there is a provision on the distance between spectators. As for cultural events, we had restrictions on four square meters without COVID certificates. Now, we will abolish those four meters where COVID certificates are required and give in to cultural and artistic performances," Capak explained.

More and more people in public transport and shops are not wearing masks. "Masks remain as a measure in all indoor and outdoor areas where space cannot be maintained, but masks are an epidemiological measure we had before vaccination and COVID certification, and they to some extent protect against the spread of all respiratory infections including corona," he added.

There will also be a change in the isolation of kindergarten children. "This measure is not the subject of this decision, but it is a matter of HZJZ regulation in agreement with the Ministry of Science and Education. It is being discussed, and it is possible that the self-isolation measure for kindergarten children will be abolished in the next few days," he said. "We only have tested at school. Therefore, there would be no testing among kindergarten children, and we would not know if someone is asymptomatic, but if the child is sick, they stay at home. If they are healthy, they go to kindergarten normally," concluded Capak. 

For all you need to know about coronavirus specific to Croatia, make sure to bookmark our dedicated section and select your preferred language if it isn't English.

Saturday, 12 February 2022

Capak Presents New Croatian Vaccination Strategy: House to House

February the 12th, 2022 - There is a new Croatian vaccination strategy on the cards according to Croatian Public Health Institute director Krunoslav Capak - going from door to door.

As Poslovni Dnevnik writes, Health Minister Vili Beros stated that they had first looked at the number of newly infected people, however, that number is no longer so important, especially with the arrival of the Omicron variant. Then they looked at the number of hospitalised people. Given the impact of Omicron, which doesn't cause so many initial respiratory problems, but can still put the elderly who are unvaccinated and who have comorbidities in hospital, the most important thing for him personally is how many people are in intensive care. He said that the infection rate is no longer really as important as the number of people in hospital beds.

''As of January the 10th, when Croatia started using the new methodology of counting deaths, we've had 1,529 of our fellow citizens who have died, for 1,107 of those people, we can say that they did die from covid, and for 422 others, we can say that they died with covid,'' the minister said.

''We've had several important meetings at the Ministry of Health, first about the waiting list for oncology patients, everything that this pandemic has brought us, and especially what will happen when it ends. Then all the problems, and especially the epidemic of oncological problems and mental health issues that will follow, we must prepare for that. Another important meeting was to look at the current situation with the epidemic in the context of vaccination,'' Beros said.

A new Croatian vaccination strategy

He added that the CNIPH had expressed its views, which were supported by others. Then the head of the CNIPH explained what those views regarding vaccination were about.

“Since we've reached one plateau of vaccination, it is now very difficult to move towards larger numbers and coverage. The last time we had a wave was in November where people were more interested in getting their first doses, but now we've come to a situation where the numbers are very small for the first doses (primary vaccination) and booster doses and we're now talking about what we could do to improve this shift towards greater vaccination coverage of the population,'' said Capak, H1 reports.

They identified certain weak points and made suggestions for resolving them with a new Croatian vaccination strategy.

"What is very important to say is that we've changed our plans in parallel with how we implemented vaccination so far and there is nothing here that we didn't already mention in that plan, but we're now basing it on some weak points of our implementation that we would like to improve," explained Capak.

When people claim they don't want to be vaccinated, those who aren't simple anti-vaxxers say things like that they have fears about an 'insufficiently tested vaccine' and secondly, the fear of the side effects. That’s why we’ve opened counseling centres, where people can consult a doctor about their fears,'' Capak said.

In addition to that, the availability of vaccines has been being worked on, so Capak explained that there are now mobile teams that would go around the houses and vaccinate people who could not go to the vaccination point to receive their dose for whatever reason. "We've done a lot when it comes to the availability of vaccines, but now we have decided to strengthen our mobile teams, so that anyone who cannot come for vaccination for any reason, can just get vaccinated at home," he said.

"We'll also stimulate drive-in vaccination, we will strengthen that part and make sure people know they don't even have to get out of their cars," said Capak.

"For those chronically ill patients who come to hospitals, we'll ask hospitals to ask them if they have been vaccinated and to vaccinate them in hospitals where there are facilities to ensure that," added the head of the CNIPH when discussing this new Croatian vaccination strategy.

“We also have the experience that where settlements are scattered, in more rural areas, vaccination coverage is lower. We'll talk to our colleagues in the field to enable either a bus or a van, these mobile teams to get to a local post office or school, so that all those who cannot get to the county centres can get vaccinated there,'' said Capak.

When asked what numbers people think they can come up with with a new Croatian vaccination strategy, Capak said he wouldn't like to try to predict. "We'll certainly not achieve the 90 percent figure that Norway and other developed countries have, but we hope to succeed with between 70 and 80 percent," Capak said.

Responding to the comments of many experts, who believe that the number of vaccinated people living in Croatia will not increase, Capak said that they at the CNIPH do not share this view and that is why they are adopting this new Croatian vaccination strategy.

For all you need to know about coronavirus specific to Croatia, make sure to bookmark our dedicated section and select your preferred language if it isn't English.

Thursday, 18 November 2021

Krunoslav Capak Warns That Free Coronavirus Testing Won't Last Long

November the 18th, 2021 - The director of the Croatian Public Health Institute, Krunoslav Capak, has warned that free coronavirus testing isn't going to be a long lasting offer, and that there are enough doses of the vaccine for everyone who hasn't yet had it.

As Poslovni Dnevnik writes, Krunoslav Capak confirmed recently for the second time that free coronavirus testing, more precisely testing done at the expense of employers will not last long. He also denied that the use of Croatian covid certificates would be expanded even further.

"It's certain that this will be discussed in case the situation continues to deteriorate. For now, we've got stagnant (infection) numbers, meaning that our numbers have decreased somewhat, but in any case we'll continue to talk about it because our strategy is to closely monitor the situation and expand or reduce measures at any given time,'' said Capak, stating that his statement was taken out of context earlier on.

He says the first day of Croatian covid certificates being needed to access state and public services went well.

"Whenever such a measure is adopted, which is related to infrastructure, certain activities carried out by healthcare services, coronavirus testing sites, the willingness of people to accept things... there are always some problems, but I'd say that it went well. What we now know is that the introduction of covid certificates in healthcare and social care facilities went very well, there were only a few people who didn't want to be tested, and many of them were vaccinated. The measure obviously has its effect, and the aim of that measure is to protect people’s health in the workplace. I think this has gone very well, we had almost 54,000 people tested and among them, almost 1300 people who turned out positive, they are now in ten-day isolation and won't continue to spread the disease further which will contribute to a better epidemiological situation,'' explained Capak.

When asked by the manager how long free coronavirus testing will be performed for unvaccinated employees at the expense of their employer, Capak answered that the measure was introduced with an unlimited duration, but that nobody should be under any illusions that it will go on for long in reality.

"It will be discussed, it will be decided, but it will certainly not be for a long time. Everyone will be given the opportunity to think about it and decide to get vaccinated, there are enough vaccines for people, mass vaccination sites are available to everyone to us, everyone can come and be vaccinated. It's necessary to wait for the people who have now decided to get vaccinated to receive their certificates, and then the state should decide to stop paying for this free coronavirus testing and then those who still don't want to be vaccinated will need to pay for it themselves. Those who cannot be vaccinated for various medical reasons are exempt from the testing measure,'' Capak told HRT.

For all you need to know about coronavirus specific to Croatia, make sure to bookmark our dedicated section and select your preferred language if it isn't English.

Friday, 15 October 2021

Krunoslav Capak Hopes for 4th Wave Peak, Drop in Infection Rate

October the 15th, 2021 - The director of the Croatian Institute of Public Health, Krunoslav Capak, has stated that he hopes we're now experiencing the very peak of the fourth wave and that we'll soon see the infection rate begin to drop again.

As Poslovni Dnevnik writes, Krunoslav Capak recently spoke about the worrying large number of infections in neighbouring Serbia, but also about the big jump the same sense here in Croatia, as well as the third dose of the vaccine. Here in Croatia, after five months, we have seen quite a dramatic jump in the infection rate. Krunoslav Capak said that if you were to ask him personally, that he doesn't expect these figures to go over 2000.

"But if you look at the weekly averages - we're in stagnant growth. The first three days of this week had fewer cases than the first three days of last week. I'd dare to say and we hope that this is the peak of the fourth wave and that the numbers will now come back down again,'' he said.

Krunoslav Capak also said that he thinks that we're now right in the very peak of the fourth wave, although cooler, less stable weather is coming and that can pose a danger for the epidemiological situation, much like it did last year when things were at their very worst.

"We always need to remember that we have a large number of people who still aren't vaccinated, people who are unwell or overweight... That said, we also have a population that is already used to all of this, that more or less maintains social distance, doesn't attend gatherings, doesn't spend much time in closed spaces, so we're hoping that we might see the peak and that in a short time, meaning the second half of October, the numbers will start to fall,'' Krunoslav Capak said.

"If the virus is allowed a lot of space, it can spread"

He also commented on the situation in neighbouring Serbia, which has an average of more than 6,500 infected people per day.

"Despite the level of vaccination there, which is very similar to ours in Croatia, if the virus is allowed a lot of space to spread, it will do precisely that,'' he said.

Krunoslav Capak also said that high numbers for the winter are possible in Croatia, too.

"We hope that this won't happen, because we're at another level of vaccination, we have different epidemiological measures and the quality of compliance with these measures is different," he said.

A booster dose of the coronavirus vaccine

He also commented on the recommendations for the third, so-called coronavirus booster dose.

He talked about whether these booster vaccinations will be organised in hospitals and in nursing homes like last winter or whether it will take place at mass vaccination points.

"In our document, we recommended that vaccinations be organised for inpatient social care institutions and in the healthcare system, as was the case with the first set of vaccinations, while for all other categories, in consultation with a doctor, we can of course organise vaccinations at mass vaccination points," said Capak for RTL.

The prolongation of the Croatian covid certificates after a booster or third dose of the vaccine

Capak also said that they haven't yet determined the dates when they will start with the third dose, but that it will happen very soon.

When asked if anyone could come to the vaccination point on their own and say they live with an immunocompromised person and want to be vaccinated with the third dose, Capak replied: “The direct answer to your question is that yes, they'll be able to do that. We always have doctors present at these mass vaccination sites. Anyone can get vaccinated in consultation with a doctor.''

He also answered whether the third dose prolongs the duration of Croatian covid certificates.

“Given the fact that the EMA has now approved it, we're going to introduce the possibility for people to be vaccinated like this. Work is underway to deal with it all in terms of IT and to create business rules for issuing covid certificates. According to us, we're ready to extend people's covid certificates after that booster or third dose for another year,'' he concluded.

For all you need to know about coronavirus specific to Croatia, make sure to check out our dedicated section and select your preferred language.

Sunday, 26 September 2021

Self-Isolation Rules Change for Croatian Schools Coming

September the 26th, 2021 - The ongoing coronavirus pandemic has seen Croatian schools close their doors for long periods of time and children learn from home via what has since been referred to as distance learning. Online platforms and Zoom classes became the norm for extended periods, and kids were often in and out of self-isolation in their droves as their classmates tested positive for the virus and parents became more and more desperate about things such as child care. That's all about to alter somewhat.

As Poslovni Dnevnik writes, the head of the Croatian Institute of Public Health (HZJZ), Krunoslav Capak, has explained the changes that Croatian schools and pupils are set to face, which should take a weight off the shoulders of not only the education system and the children, but worried parents who, in many cases in the past, exhausted many resources they may not really have had.

“It isn't necessary for whole classes to go into self-isolation, it needs to be determined which kids were in close contact. A document on that topic is being prepared, and most importantly, only those students who sat at the same benches/desks, those within a radius of two metres and those who traveled longer than fifteen minutes with a student who fell ill [tested positive] will be placed into self-isolation,'' explained Krunoslav Capak at a recently held press conference during which the matter was discussed in more depth.

The document will be completed by the end of this week, but it is not yet known when it will take effect, so until then Croatian schools must continue being extra careful as infection numbers remain quite high across the country.

"The assessment should be made by an epidemiologist when they receive information from the child themselves in these cases, and it's going to be a similar thing with preschoolers. It all depends on how long the contact with the positive person has been,'' explained Krunoslav Capak.

For all you need to know about coronavirus in Croatia, make sure to bookmark our dedicated COVID-19 section and select your preferred language.

Friday, 17 September 2021

New Protein-Based Vaccine in Croatia Produced by French Pharmaceutical Company Sanofi

September 17, 2021 - A new protein-based vaccine in Croatia will soon be put into use, produced by French pharmaceutical company Sanofi.

The director of the Croatian Institute of Public Health, Krunoslav Capak, announced at a press conference on Friday that Croatia has purchased a new protein-based vaccine produced by the French pharmaceutical company Sanofi, reports

Beroš: It is a different type of vaccine

"The experts have articulated more clearly that we need to expand the range. It is a different type of vaccine. The question is what the practice will show; these are protein vaccines," Health Minister Vili Beroš said at the press conference.

"It's a lot cheaper than an mRNA vaccine."

"We have ordered about 300,000 doses of the innovative vaccine. So far, we have had vector (AstraZeneca) and mRNA (Pfizer and Moderna). This is protein; it is announced that it will be very effective. It is much cheaper than the mRNA vaccine. When EMA evaluates it, we will know more," Capak said.

"Germany ordered the most, so we ordered a smaller quantity."

"We will see how things go and how they react to viruses. Other countries have ordered the same, and Germany ordered the largest quantities. We assume they have more information. When they took so many vaccines, we also ordered some smaller quantities," Capak added. 

Vaccination was completed for 49.29% of the adult population.

"Today's share of positive cases is 12.5%, in the last seven days we had 11.3%, in the past 14 days 10%, and the total since the beginning of the pandemic 14.4%. Of today's 1394 cases, 1164, or 83% have not been vaccinated. 195 or 14% have been vaccinated. We have nine deaths today, of which one person has not been vaccinated, and only one person with severe comorbidity has been vaccinated," said Capak, adding: "We are in 23rd place in the EU countries in terms of incidence rate. Poland is the lowest."

"Most of the hospitalized, seriously ill were not vaccinated and wished they were, that they were braver and wiser to get vaccinated. It will be good for everyone that has recovered and for those who do not have serious consequences. Our post covid clinic is full in recent months," said Alemka Markotić about the situation in the Clinic for Infectious Diseases.

For all you need to know about coronavirus specific to Croatia, make sure to bookmark our dedicated COVID-19 section and select your preferred language.

Saturday, 28 August 2021

Krunoslav Capak Talks Measures, Covid Certificates, Third Dose

August the 28th, 2021 - The director of the Croatian Institute of Public Health, Krunoslav Capak, has discussed the epidemiological situation, the fact that Croatia continues to be a safe tourist destination, anti-epidemic measures and the idea of a third dose of the vaccine.

As Poslovni Dnevnik writes, Krunoslav Capak stated on Thursday that Croatia currently has the most favourable epidemiological situation of all tourist countries in Europe, as well as of many other tourist countries globally. This has been reaffirmed by Croatia remaining orange on the ECDC's latest corona map update.

“It’s very good news; no additional measures are being introduced for tourists leaving Croatia to return home, and if we do turn red, then additional measures can be introduced, including quarantine,'' Krunoslav Capak told Dnevnik Nova TV.

He reported that no additional measures are being planned so far, and the existing ones will be extended until September the 15th, 2021.

“Now we have a slightly worse situation than we did at the same time last year, and the fourth wave started earlier than last year. Our expectations are that, given that we have more than 50 percent of the population vaccinated, it won't be such big growth and it won't last long," he added.

He noted that covid certificates have been introduced for gatherings of more than fifty people in Dalmatian and coastal counties and for a hundred people in continental counties, adding that they haven't yet considered introducing them for shopping centres, restaurants and cafes, although this option remains open and all is applicable in some European countries.

Consideration is also being given to using the certificates for the healthcare system and the social security system. Because, as Krunoslav Capak stated, it is important that when it comes to healthcare system, both patients and staff should try to avoid potentially infecting each other if possible.

“The use of covid certificates is tremendously important here, and we'd prefer everyone to be vaccinated,'' he pointed out.

"In some EU countries where covid certificates have been introduced, testing restrictions for asymptomatic people are being considered, so this will be one of the mechanisms in Croatia. We didn't definitely agree on when that would put put into practice,'' he said.

When asked about the vaccination of children, Krunoslav Capak noted that they support the vaccination of children aged 12 to 18, especially those with chronic underlying diseases where the risk of a severe form of the disease should it be contracted be higher.

"Now we're talking about it and stimulating the vaccination of children in their final grades of high school, and then high schools in which, due to the nature of the type of education they conduct, there is contact with more people,'' he added. He also invited every other child who wanted to, to come to receive the vaccination together with their parents.

Krunoslav Capak says the idea of a third dose of the vaccine is being discussed intensively, and Europe's position is rather conservative on the issue - most EU countries believe there is still a long way to go before we should need to start talking about that.

"So far, we don't have the infrastructure in place for that, nor the possibility to record the third dose, and we're also working on that. We epidemiologists will agree on which vulnerable groups we'll start giving the third dose too first,'' he stressed.

For all you need to know about coronavirus specific to Croatia, make sure to bookmark our dedicated section and select your preferred language.

Friday, 30 July 2021

COVID-19 Response Team: Share of Infections with Delta Coronavirus Variant Rising

ZAGREB, 30 July 2021- The results of the latest sequencing of samples sent on 20 July show that 13% of the samples were infected with the Alpha coronavirus variant while 84% were infected with the Delta variant, meaning that the share of the new variant in Croatia has continued to grow, the COVID-19 response team has said.

Health Minister Vili Beroš said on Friday that according to the latest map of the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control, Croatia remained in the orange zone, recording the smallest daily increase in infections in relation to its competition.

"That fact strengthens our status as the safest tourist destination. That gives us reason for satisfaction, but we must remain cautious," he said.

There are over one million tourists in Croatia, which carries an increased risk of disease transmission, the minister said, calling for compliance with restrictions and for vaccination.

He again called on elderly citizens to get vaccinated, noting that mobile teams had been formed to visit elderly people at home and remind them of the importance of getting vaccinated.

Asked if vaccination would be made obligatory for some sectors, Beroš said that that was not likely at the moment and that what prevailed was the proposal for the smart use of COVID-19 certificates to enable work also for people who had not been vaccinated.

Claim for damages over infection, death during hospital treatment

The minister said that for the time being there were no lawsuits against medical institutions over infection with COVID-19 during hospital treatment but he confirmed that a claim for damages had been filed against the KBC Zagreb hospital by a family who believed that their member had died in hospital infected with COVID-19.

KBC Zagreb officials have said that COVID-19 restrictions and professional rules are complied with at the hospital.

"As for whether lawsuits can be expected, probably yes. I can only repeat that since the start of the pandemic we have acted in line with recommendations by the public health institute for safe work in hospitals," the minister said.

Official: Vaccinated people can transmit infection, should wear masks until vaccination rate is high 

Reporters asked the head of Zagreb's "Dr. Fran Mihaljević" hospital for infectious diseases, Alemka Markotić, to explain research showing that people who have been vaccinated can spread infection with the Delta coronavirus variant equally fast as people who have not been immunised.

She said that this was not unusual as a person who had been vaccinated was protecting themselves but could carry the virus, which was why experts remained cautious and were not saying that those who had been vaccinated should no longer wear masks.

Public Health Institute (HZJZ) head Krunoslav Capak said that epidemiological rules for the 5 August commemoration of Operation Storm had still not been defined and that they would be known on Monday, and as for the Alka tournament in Sinj, he said that a proposal had been made for participants to have COVID-19 certificates and for the number of attendees to be half the envisaged seating capacity.

The COVID-19 response team will hold its next news conference in three weeks' time, on the condition there are no extraordinary situations.

Thursday, 22 July 2021

Roma People COVID-19 Vaccination in Croatia: Will Crushed by Disinformation

July 22, 2021 - With the overall struggle to get Croatians to take the coronavirus vaccine, it is often overlooked regarding Roma people COVID-19 vaccination in Croatia.

Despite coronavirus infections being low at the moment, the situation is tense. On July 5, as TCN reported, only 35% of the Croatian population was vaccinated as the Delta strain spreads globally and in the country.

"Unfortunately, we aren't satisfied with the percentage of vaccinated people we hoped to have. We all wanted to vaccinate more than 50 percent of the total Croatian population during June, but sadly our numbers in that regard are much lower. Only about 35 percent of the total Croatian population has been vaccinated, which isn't enough for them to be calm and to be able to live according to the old normal,'' said epidemiologist Dijana Mayer back then. This was punished with the Croatian coast no longer being in the green, and without bigger vaccination interest, things can turn red. As TCN wrote, there are 5-6 Positive Cases at Split Airport every day, and new measures are introduced to British tourists as the Delta strain is booming there (but in a less fatal manner because of vaccines). Stricter measures, in general, can be excepted by the end of the month in Croatia too.

Fortunately, things got better in July. As reported on Wednesday, „Croatia administered nearly three million vaccine doses. Thus, 1.6 million people have received at least one dose of vaccines against COVID-19, and 1,388,674 have fully been vaccinated (1,349,652 have been double-jabbed plus 39,022 who have received a single-dose Jannsen vaccine), and this makes up 41.24% of the adult population“.

But, disinformation about COVID-19 vaccines is vividly spread (just as disinformation about COVID-19), leaving Croatian fact-checking site Faktograf knee-deep in debunking work. Many Croatians sadly believe the fake news of the anti-vaxxers, and the situation culminated to the point where the Croatian officials (as officials in many other EU countries that also struggle with anti-vax propaganda) seriously discuss obligatory vaccination. Will it happen? Some politicians are up for it, others no, but overall, the situation is uncertain as the fourth infection wave approaches, and the season could potentially be in jeopardy in mid-August, as 24 Sata writes.


COVID-19 vaccine © Pixabay

In summary, there are currently more vaccines in Croatia than there are people interested in. It's hard to believe how things progressed from the start of the year when we witnessed a delay in vaccine shipments, outrage by the public when people such as Zagreb University Rector Damir Boras received the vaccine ahead of time and schedule. From the malfunctioning Cijepi se (Vaccinate yourself) website where you had to register for an appointment (which took forever to get) to a family doctor being able to sign you up, all the way to be able to take a shot without an appointment today, vaccines truly became accessible for everyone. There were even buses bringing vaccines and performing vaccinations in remote villages. So vaccines are for everyone to take, but is it really so?

Nothing in the world is perfect, and neither is Croatia. From time to time, we can see that some groups in Croatian society do get discriminated against or suffer negative stereotypes. For example, with significant progress in accepting the LGBTQ community, sadly homophobic attacks still happen. The tensions with the Serbian minority vary from the day-to-day political agenda, but it is safe to say no one has it worse than the Roma people in Croatia.

As TCN previously wrote, following the 2020 report by Human Rights House in Zagreb, Roma people in Croatia are still facing many obstacles in achieving their rights, which include employment, access to services, and adequate living standards, and there is still segregation in the education system too. Either perceived as thieves, criminals, beggars or completely ignored in Croatia, the question of how many Roma people in Croatia received the vaccine and how many Roma people want the vaccine in the first place, can't be left aside, as it shows how much the vaccine rollout truly is fair for every citizen in the country.

Disinformation crippled 80% of those willing to get the vaccine

Veljko Kajtazi, a member of the Croatian parliament, elected as a representative of the Roma community, says that official research of percentage of vaccinated Roma people hasn't been conducted, but he frequently goes „to the field“, and sees that the situation isn't good.

„If 45% of the Croatian population is vaccinated, I can say that Roma people are a very small percentage of that number“, commented Kajtazi, then on a relevant number of vaccinated people.

He supports the talk of obligatory vaccines and finds disinformation and fake news regarding vaccines to be the cause of low interest.

veljko_kajtazi_Hrvatska_radiotelevizija.jpgVeljko Kajtazi, screenshot / Hrvatska radiotelevizija

„Roma people have a very social culture, love gatherings, and live in big families. When the pandemic started, I cooperated with authorities in ensuring that social distancing measures are respected in Roma settlements and that we educate people on the dangers of coronavirus“, recalled Kajtazi.

While Roma people can be found living anywhere, the majority is often ghettoized. An example is in Zagreb, where the Kozari Bok neighborhood on the east side of the city is famous for its big Roma population. When looking outside of the capital city, there are many Roma villages and settlements which count more people than other Croatian villages.

One such place is Piškorovec in Međimurje, which the Lupiga news site referred to as „the biggest Croatian ghetto“. Their article detailed both living in Piškorovec and tensions with the nearby town of Čakovec underlining incidents and division between Roma and Croatians (as Roma People are often perceived as thieves or beggars).

„Last year 80% of Roma people wanted to take the vaccine, but today, they are scared and believe various conspiracy theories. People are not informed, and social networks spread so much disinformation“, Kajtazi pictured how wishing for a vaccine turned sideways.

In the end, he added that he is regularly in contact with the government and institutions to provide information on vaccines to the community. Katja also hopes the vaccine buses will come to Roma villages too.

Questions for HZJZ

The lack of information, geographical isolation, and the overall achievement of social rights (such as health insurance) like other Croatian citizens that the Human Rights House in Zagreb expressed in their report left a lot of open questions regarding Roma people vaccination. Particularly, are there any statistics on how many people vaccinated that the health officials might have, what is the mood towards vaccines in Roma communities in their view, and can buses come to isolated areas to vaccinate Roma people? The inquiry was sent to the Health Ministry and to the Croatian Public Health Institute (HZJZ). Health Ministry very quickly forwarded the inquiry to the Croatian Public Health Institute (HZJZ) as these questions are part of their domain. The health ministry even forwarded the questions directly to the HZJZ headmaster Krunoslav Capak himself and other close associates on e-mail addresses not visible on the HZJZ website. But, HZJZ hasn't responded yet. Whether I tried to remind them and ask when can they answer via e-mail or phone calls, none left a response (although a phone call with HZJZ PR service confirmed there are experts in HZJZ that deal with the health of vulnerable social groups, which includes Roma People).

When the answer that can be expected for the moment remains unknown, but TCN will publish HZJZ's response when we receive it.

In the meantime, as we can see, despite vaccine skepticism being strong, there is nevertheless a slow but steady daily rise of vaccinated people in Croatia. 

Let's hope for the sake of public health that disinformation and fake news that turn people away from the vaccines will lower its influence on all the cultural groups and identities you can find in Croatia.

Editor's note: HZJZ response

Learn more about travelling to Croatia during the COVID-19 pandemic on our TC page.

For more about COVID-19 in Croatia, follow TCN's dedicated page.

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