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Czech Republic’s PM says France to provide country 100,000 vaccines

PRAGUE (Reuters) – The Czech Republic will get 100,000 doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech coronavirus vaccine from France by mid-March, Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis told CTK news agency on Thursday.

The Czechs have been struggling with resurgent infections in recent weeks and have sought help from allies. The country has had one of the highest COVID-19 rates in the world in terms of infections and deaths per million people.

The Prague government is seeking to toughen lockdown measures and speed up inoculations to ease the strain on hospitals, many of which are operating near capacity.

France said it was examining the requests by hard-hit countries such as the Czech republic to “borrow” doses in March that would be sent back in April via a common EU vaccine procurement mechanism.

“European solidarity implies that all those who can should step in,” a French presidency official told Reuters.

Hit by supply issues, the Czech Republic is lagging the European Union average in vaccination rates according to the Our World in Data website. With a population of 10.7 million, it has administered 600,000 vaccine doses, including 226,780 people who have received both shots, according to Health Ministry data.

Babis said the central European country was reaching out to other EU states besides France for vaccines.

The Czechs this week received several thousand doses of the Moderna vaccine from Israel, which has outpaced the world in its vaccination progress.

Neighbouring Slovakia, which has been hit just as hard by a new wave of infections, has also called on EU partners for vaccines.

(Reporting by Robert Muller in Prague, additional reporting by Michel Rose in Paris; Writing by Jason Hovet; Editing by Frances Kerry and Mark Heinrich)

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