Romania's government has confirmed that it plans to start delivering coronavirus vaccines to Ireland in the coming weeks, rejecting fears that the deal will not go ahead.
On July 2nd, Taoiseach Micheál Martin said Ireland would buy 1 million mRNA vaccines after Romanian president Klaus Iohannis said the country was trying to sell vaccines because of low inoculation rates.
"We are currently holding technical discussions with our Irish counterparts and we aim at securing the delivery shortly, in the following weeks," Andrei Baciu, state secretary at Romania's health ministry, told The Irish Times.
The deputy head of the co-ordinating committee for Romania’s vaccination programme also played down concerns that the Irish/Romanian deal may have struck trouble.
“Moving this amount of highly sensitive biological products is no easy task and requires appropriate planning,” he said, “Specialists from both countries are working together to sort out the final logistics details.”
The deliveries could bolster the Government's planned rollout of the Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna vaccines to teenagers over the summer.
Early details of the deal suggested that Romania would send Ireland about 700,000 doses of Pfizer/BioNtech and 300,000 shots of Moderna, but Dr Baciu said the precise split had not been decided.
“The exact volumes of each vaccine that are going to be delivered to Ireland depends on balancing the final logistics solutions identified, vaccine availability and (domestic) needs for both vaccines,” he said.
Dr Baciu declined to reveal the price being paid, but insisted that “Romania is not pursuing financial profit from this operation” as it looks for buyers of doses that could expire without being used in his country.
Romania halted the import of most Covid-19 vaccines this month and sold spare Pfizer/BioNTech shots to Denmark, while also seeking to extend the validity of tens of thousands of AstraZeneca shots that had reached their use-by date.
"We sold 1.17 million doses of vaccine to Denmark, we donated over a half million doses to the Republic of Moldova, 100,800 to Ukraine, 30,000 to Argentina and 50,400 to Serbia. These are the agreements that have been completed so far," Dr Baciu told a press conference in Bucharest this week.
He said Romania had received a total of more than 17.6 million doses of Covid-19 vaccines, and now had a little over 6 million shots in storage.
“There are 1.4 million doses that expire at the end of August...Hence the importance of efficient stock management,” he said.
Like many countries in central and eastern Europe, Romania has seen its Covid-19 inoculation rate fall sharply in recent weeks, and it is now administering about 20,000 doses each day compared to 100,000 a day in June.
According to the European Centre for Disease Control, Romania and Bulgaria have the lowest vaccination rates in the EU, with 31.5 per cent and 18.8 per cent of their respective populations having received at least one dose – well below the EU average of 69.7 per cent and Ireland on 85.1 per cent.