Doctors 'Desperate' for People to Get COVID Shots as Romanian Hospitals Reach 'The Limit'

Hoping to appeal to members of the public, Romanian doctors sent an open letter titled "a cry of despair" on Wednesday begging for unvaccinated people to get COVID-19 shots as the country's fragile health care infrastructure trembles beneath a surge of infections and deaths.

Vaccine skepticism is high in the EU member nation, where Romania is reaching new records this fall. The College of Physicians of Bucharest, a nongovernmental organization representing doctors, said in the letter to Romanians that the nation's hospital system has "reached the limit," adding that a lack of vaccinations has revealed a "failure of trust" between doctors and the public.

"We are desperate because every day we lose hundreds of patients who die in Romanian hospitals," the letter reads. "We are desperate, because, unfortunately, we have heard too many times: I can't breathe.... I'm not vaccinated."

Along with Bulgaria, Romania has one of the lowest vaccination rates in Europe. The country's centrist government was toppled in a no-confidence vote last week.

For more reporting from The Associated Press, see below.

Romanian hospital
Medical personnel helps a newly hospitalized Covid-19 patient (R) at the "Pneumophysiology Institute Prof Dr Marius Nasta" in Bucharest, on October 7, 2021, amid the ongoing coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic. - In front of several hospitals, in Bucharest or in Iasi (north-east), ambulances wait for beds to become available, often following the death of the occupants, in order to be able to disembark the patients they are transporting. Daniel MIHAILESCU / AFP/AP Photo

Romania, a country of 19 million people, is the European Union member nation with the population second-least vaccinated against COVID-19. Just 34 percent of its adults are fully inoculated, compared to an EU average of 74 percent.

On Tuesday, Romania reported daily pandemic records of nearly 17,000 new confirmed cases and 442 deaths. Data from health authorities indicate that more than 90 percent of coronavirus patients who died last week were unvaccinated against COVID-19.

"Every day we witness tragedies: dying patients, suffering families, doctors who have reached the end of their powers," the letter from Bucharest's doctors reads.

The pressure on hospitals prompted Romanian officials last week to suspend non-emergency medical procedures for 30 days and to ask the EU for help.

Janez Lenarcic, the EU commissioner for crisis management, said last week that the EU would send 250 oxygen concentrators to Romania, which on Tuesday received 5,200 doses of monoclonal antibodies from Italy. Several dozen COVID-19 patients will also be sent to intensive care units in Hungary this week.

Dragos Zaharia, a primary care doctor at Bucharest's Marius Nasta Institute of Pneumology, thinks Romanian authorities should have enlisted a "famous personality" to lead the country's vaccination campaign.

"Only anonymous guys are leading this fight," Zaharia told The Associated Press. "It's heartbreaking for us when we know that a lot of those who died could have lived, if they would have been vaccinated."

Romania COVID Hospitalizations
Paramedics bring an elderly patient to the emergency room, turned into a CODIV-19 unit due the high number of cases, at the Bagdasar-Arseni hospital in Bucharest, Romania, Tuesday, Oct. 12, 2021. Romania reported on Tuesday nearly 17,000 new COVID-19 infections and 442 deaths, the highest number of coronavirus infections and deaths in a day since the pandemic started, as the nation's health care system struggles to cope with an acute surge of new cases. Andreea Alexandru/AP Photo