Bulgaria encourages the Roma minority to get vaccinated against Covid-19

In light of worryingly low vaccination rates against Covid-19 among the Bulgarian Roma minority fueled by misinformation about vaccines, the municipality’s health ministry will provide more information about vaccination to the community, according to a briefing on June 22nd.

Hristo Nikolov, a health mediator at the Sofia Regional Health Inspectorate, told reporters that only about 10 percent of the Roma minority in Bulgaria have been vaccinated against Covid-19.

The main reason was misinformation that “someone will chip you, monitor you that way, sterilize you and so on,” said Nikolov.

The press conference took place after Deputy Health Minister Alexander Zlatanov held a working meeting with mediators who work with the Roma population. Senior State Health Inspector Angel Kunchev and representatives of general practitioners also attended the meeting.

The conclusions of the meeting were that myths about the vaccines had spread among the Roma minority in Bulgaria, while people were also afraid of side effects.

Zlatanov said now is a good time to start the campaign as morbidity is low in the country and all types of vaccines are available.

“And in order to protect all Bulgarians from a future wave, it is very important that people are vaccinated,” said Zlatanov.

“People who do not have health insurance can have their family doctor vaccinated free of charge. We made this decision because the Roma population is concerned that they might be asked to pay for vaccinations, ”he said.

Various “channels” would be used to provide accurate information, including “through the people they respect and authority among them, the show business people they emulate, the clergy who preach”.

The second step was to emphasize that vaccination is simple and can be done either in makeshift vaccination centers or with general practitioners.

Repeated meetings are held over a period of 10 days to discuss the effects of the measures.

“Vaccines should be given fairly and equally to the entire population, and no special conditions should be placed on anyone. Not only do we guarantee almost all vaccines approved by the EU, but we guarantee that they are safe for people and free for those who are not insured, ”said Zlatanov.

There are no financial incentives to give vaccine doses, be it Roma or non-Roma, he said.

On the weekend of June 12th and 13th, as The Sofia Globe reported at the time, a mobile vaccination station was set up on a bus in the Bulgarian city of Plovdiv in the Stolipinovo area with around 40,000 inhabitants, mainly Roma.

Plovdiv media reported at the time that eight people in Stolipinovo this Saturday and two on Sunday received the bump, causing the bus to leave at noon due to lack of interest. The campaign was reportedly hampered by a Facebook group calling on Roma not to get vaccinated, lying that it would be fatal.

Most of the 10 people vaccinated in Stolipinovo that weekend wanted the Janssen vaccine because it was a single dose. Their motivation for the vaccination was that they wanted to travel abroad, the reports say.

Later reports in Plovdiv media said that the leaders of the Roma community had told the authorities that they were ready to encourage people to get a vaccination, but only if those who received the vaccination were paid to do so.

For the rest of The Sofia Globe’s ongoing coverage of the Covid-19 situation in Bulgaria, please click here.

The Sofia Globe’s reporting on the Covid-19 situation in Bulgaria is supported by the embassies of Switzerland and Finland.

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