a vaccination system fiasco in croatia

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The COVID-19 pandemic has been causing havoc around the world, while vaccines provide glimmers of hope for a better future. Nevertheless, for mass vaccination to be rapid and consistent, good organisation is crucial. 

Let us take a closer look at Croatia, where the situation turned into pure chaos. Whilst they have since managed to amend the process and to make it work, the journey to this point was hectic, to say the least.

The Croatian government created a new online platform known as Cijepise (‘Vaccinate yourself’) where people would sign up for the vaccine and obtain appointments. This took months to be finalised and tested. During that time, general physicians (GPs) were  signing people up and making appointments for them to get vaccinated instead. The appointments, at the start, were for the elderly and people with pre-existing conditions. Whilst this process was slow, overall it was rather efficient and well-organised. It would be unfair to blame this havoc solely on GPs given how vaccines were supplied extremely slowly to all EU countries at this time.

“Most people choose to go to their GP to book their appointments as they have now lost trust in Cijepise and it is understandable why.”

The problems started once Cijepise was launched. The platform was ready, or so it seemed. It was understandable that problems could emerge, but this disarray should not have happened twice. In fairness, one issue was a legitimate technical crash, and another can be blamed on GPs and the platform’s lack of complexity.

The latter situation occurred when too many people came to Velesajam, the venue where vaccination occurs, resulting in mass confusion. The platform notified people who were signed up to come and receive their vaccine, whilst on the same day those sent by their GPs also arrived. It was later established that GPs made a mistake as they were supposed to sign these people up on Cijepise. Arguably, the platform should have been made not only for sign-ups but also to show appointments, in order to identify any potential overlaps. Fortunately, the miscommunication was eventually solved as everyone who came that day got their vaccine.

In regards to the technical issue where Cijepise crashed, the problems lay in how people’s data was deleted. This included those who had their first dose of the vaccine and others who signed up but were yet to receive their first dose. This situation attracted publicity — people were angry and disappointed, especially as the platform cost 4.5 million kunas (approximately half a million pounds). Because of this incident, Cijepise was discontinued and the process went back to its beginnings. 

Currently, Cijepise still exists and people can sign up if they wish, but most people choose to go to their GP to book their appointments as they have now lost trust in the platform, and it is understandable why. For example, this week on Monday my mother was vaccinated after getting an appointment through her GP, but she was then contacted by Cijepise on Wednesday and was asked whether she still wanted to get vaccinated and if so, to enter her availability times. It was rather bizarre and this showed the lack of interconnection between the platform and GPs.

All in all, the vaccination process in Croatia has had its ups and downs, and the latter were truly massive. Everything, however, was eventually resolved thanks to the speed of vaccination and the organisation of the process being elevated to a new level.

Article by Sara Dozai

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