Thursday, 11 February 2021

PM: AstraZeneca Vaccine Protects Elderly from Death, Ventilators, Graver Symptoms

ZAGREB, 11 February, 2021 - Prime Minister Andrej Plenković said on Thursday the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine protected the elderly against death, ventilators and more serious symptoms, and that therefore there were no obstacles to administering it to people over 65.

Speaking at a cabinet meeting, he said that this morning he spoke with representatives of pensioner unions and associations which demand that people over 65 are not given the AstraZeneca vaccine.

Plenković told the public, notably older people, that all three COVID vaccines, Pfizer's, Moderna's and AstraZeneca's, "are 100% effective against death, against situations on ventilators and more serious symptoms."

He said that according to the information at the government's disposal, there were no obstacles to people over 65 receiving the AstraZeneca vaccine.

"We believe that in these circumstances as many people as possible whose health is at risk, whose health is fragile, who are older, to whom coronavirus can cause major health damage in a short time, should be vaccinated."

Plenković said additional studies and trials would confirm that the AstraZeneca vaccine was equally effective in reducing the number of COVID deaths in Croatia.

The number of new infections keeps falling

Speaking of the epidemic, he said the decrease in new infections was continuing, as confirmed by this week's numbers.

Today Croatia is third in the EU by the weekly average of confirmed cases per million inhabitants and has the fifth largest two-week decrease in COVID deaths, he added.

"We are in the winter months and a strong cold wave has been announced, the British virus strain has been identified, so many European countries, which have much stricter measures, are extending or further restricting them."

Plenković said there were indications that vaccine deliveries would step up and that greater quantities could be expected by the end of March.

Croatia has received about 150,000 doses, another 600,000 are expected by the end of March, so it will be possible to vaccinate a markedly larger number of people, he added.

It is important that the Health Ministry, the Croatian Institute of Public Health, hospitals and general practitioners ensure mass vaccination, he said.

Monday, 8 February 2021

Vaccination in Croatia: 25,200 Doses of Moderna and AstraZeneca to be Distributed Today

February 8, 2021 - Vaccination in Croatia continues as the Moderna and AstraZeneca vaccines will be distributed in Slavonia and Dalmatia on Monday. 

HRT reports that Croatia's favorable epidemiological situation continues, as 276 new COVID-19 cases were confirmed on Sunday. The share of positive cases among those tested was 5.3%. Unfortunately, another 25 patients died.

The number of patients in hospital treatment and on ventilators was the same as Saturday - 1,142 patients are in hospital, and 107 are on ventilators.

On Monday, 25,200 doses of the Moderna and AstraZeneca vaccine will be distributed in Croatia. Those over the age of 65, the chronically ill, and everyone else who wants to be vaccinated will be vaccinated.

Epidemiologist Iva Pem Novosel (Croatian Public Health Institute) explained that the distribution to Slavonia and Dalmatia starts on Monday. Istria and central Croatia will receive doses on Wednesday, and the northern part of Croatia will receive them on Friday. Vaccine quantities are determined in proportion to the population.

Although pensioners' associations are asking to postpone the vaccination of the elderly with the AstraZeneca vaccine, Pem Novosel says that Croatia's situation is not such that vaccination should be postponed.

"Already after the first dose, the effectiveness develops in three weeks, and when two full doses are received with the maximum interval of 12 weeks, that efficiency is as much as 82%," she says.

On Sunday, Split-Dalmatia and Primorje-Gorski Kotar counties were in the lead in terms of the number of infected people.

Vladimir Mićović, NZJZ director of Primorje-Gorski Kotar County, called for caution when easing measures.

He is in favor of, he said, a certain gradual opening if there are indicators and preconditions, and above all, the opening of schools. He also mentioned, "coffee on terraces."

"Maybe we should think about it if there are conditions," he said.

On Monday, high school students return to the classroom in Zagreb and Lika-Senj County.

"Almost 30,000 additional high school students from Zagreb will return to school on Monday. All those schools that worked according to model A in the first half of the year will work according to the same model Monday, and it is difficult to say how this will affect the epidemiological situation," says Ivica Lovrić, head of the Zagreb City Office for Education.

Compared to December, Zagreb schools are 10 times less infected, he added.

"We have 114 infected students and 86 infected employees. If we put this in the context of somewhere around 100,000 children and employees coming to schools, then that really isn’t a big number. We hope that the number will not grow; of course, if the epidemiological situation worsens, we will again consider the introduction of model C," he points out.

Valentina Zdunić, head of the Department for Social Activities of Lika-Senj County, announced that as of Monday, a total of 1,135 high school students would be in school. She emphasized that the schools are ready and that if the epidemiological situation worsens, they will switch to another teaching model.

To prevent this from happening, adhering to epidemiological guidelines is the best option.

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Sunday, 7 February 2021

AstraZeneca Vaccine Arrives as Croatian Vaccination Process Continues

February the 7th, 2021 - Croatian epidemiologist Iva Pem Novosel from the Croatian Institute of Public Health answered several questions for HTV after 16,800 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine arrived in Croatia and the Croatian vaccination process hopes for a ramp up.

As Poslovni Dnevnik writes, this is only the first lot, and by the end of the month, more than 150,000 more doses will arrive, according to HTV.

"Pfizer and Moderna's vaccines are also coming in, so we'll finally have a sufficient amount of vaccines and we'll finally be able to start the second phase of the national plan for the implementation of vaccination against the novel coronavirus," the Novosel told HTV.

Protection against a more severe form of coronavirus and death

Distribution by county is set to follow, as the Croatian vaccination process will initially begin at family doctor's/GP's offices or at vaccination points, about which citizens will be informed. Some European countries have decided not to vaccinate those over the age of 65 with the AstraZeneca vaccine, but in Croatia they say there is no need for such a move.

The reason for that is too little research and insufficient information about the effectiveness of the vaccine itself. All those who have decided to receive another coronavirus vaccine are free to do so but will have to wait until other doses of the desired vaccine arrive.

"Of course they'll be able to wait for another vaccine, but there are also a lot of misunderstandings involved. The effectiveness of the vaccine among the elderly doesn't mean that it is lower. Any vaccine given to the elderly elicits a slightly weaker immune response. This is common knowledge, so that's the case with any vaccine manufacturer. As for the AstraZeneca vaccine in the older age group, there was too small a sample, so the efficacy that was obtained can't really be properly interpreted, and we actually expect it to boast the same effectiveness as it did in the other age groups,'' explained Pem Novosel.

In some counties, in addition to GP's offices, special vaccination points will be organised in coordination with the Ministry of Health. It was said that doctors from the Ministry of Health had received a letter that special vaccination points would be organised, and mobile teams would be formed for precisely that purpose, and that there would be fewer of those who would vaccinate in the surgeries themselves.

At the level of the Ministry of Health, a special platform is also being organised to which all those who have not previously communicated with their GP's will be able to apply for vaccination as it is rolled out across the country.

As for the AstraZeneca vaccine itself, we know that it is registered for those over eighteen years of age, and that the effectiveness in preventing the disease is 60 percent, but also that all those who received the vaccine didn't develop a more severe form of the disease, nor were any of them hospitalised.

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Friday, 5 February 2021

Croatian Public Health Institute Reveals AstraZeneca Vaccination Plan in Croatia

February 5, 2021 - The Croatian Public Health Institute has revealed the details of the AstraZeneca vaccination plan in Croatia. The first vaccinations will begin next week. 

The Croatian Public Health Institute (HZJZ) has announced that the third vaccine against COVID-19 will be available in Croatia next week. It is a vaccine manufactured by AstraZeneca/Oxford, and 150,000 doses of this vaccine should arrive in Croatia in February.

AstraZeneca is intended for people over 18 years of age. Two doses of this vaccine are needed, and the second dose should be given between 8 and 12 weeks after the first dose.

“In clinical studies taken into consideration by the European Medicines Agency, vaccine efficacy is about 60% in disease prevention defined by the presence of at least one of the symptoms of the disease with laboratory confirmation of infection.

The estimated efficacy of this vaccine in the elderly is equal to that in younger adults. Still, in the data taken into account by the European Medicines Agency, it did not prove statistically significant, primarily due to the small number of respondents in older age groups," says HZJZ.

HZJZ also explains that the side effects caused by this vaccine are not unexpected and unusual, and "the only real contraindication for use is hypersensitivity to the components of the vaccine."

According to the HZJZ, there is no maximum age limit for the use of this vaccine.

"Based on the available data on clinical trials of COVID-19 vaccines registered in Croatia by a centralized procedure (via the European Medicines Agency), there is no reason to make a recommendation for vaccination that would differ from the indications approved by the European Medicines Agency, i.e., the minimum age limit for the use of this vaccine is 18 years. There is no maximum age limit."

Based on additional information about AstraZeneca's COVID-19 vaccine, which indicates that:

- it has been shown that a single dose of AstraZeneca vaccine protects about 70% for three weeks after administration and that this protection does not weaken within 12 weeks,
- according to the Summary of Product Characteristics, the recommended interval between the first and second dose is 4 to 12 weeks,
- the final result, i.e., the efficacy after the second dose, is higher when the interval between the first and second doses is greater,

we recommend that the second dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine be given 8-12 weeks after the first dose," concluded HZJZ.

Illustration by Little Shiva


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Monday, 1 February 2021

Marija Bubas: Croatia Expects Substantial Amount of AstraZeneca Vaccine

February the 1st, 2021 - Marija Bubas from the Croatian Institute of Public Health was a recent guest of Dnevnik N1 television, during which she discussed the ongoing pandemic and the vaccination plan.

As Index writes, Marija Bubas talked about easing the current anti-epidemic measures and Croatia's vaccination process. Despite the better epidemiological situation, she is not yet in favour of easing measures. Croatia has now surpassed 5,000 deaths from coronavirus, and Marija Bubas believes that this only goes to show that the novel virus has some of the worst consequences attached to it, not just long-term health issues.

"Our measures are helping against the spread of coronavirus"

"Our rate per million inhabitants is about 1,200 cases and we're in 20th place. That rate is significant in our country. There are other countries that are worse off, there are better ones, and it's a question of other comorbidities. Over 90 percent of deaths were the result of various comorbidities they already had when they became infected and which helped to make their struggle for life difficult and end terribly as the virus ravaged them.

It's also a fact that says that we should beware of coronavirus infections, especially now, in circumstances when there is more and more talk about the spread of new strains of this virus. The measures that are still in force and have been extended until the 15th of February are helping to prevent the spread of coronavirus as well as its new strains. Our number of hospitalised people, deaths and people on respirators is dropping from week to week,'' said Marija Bubašs

When it comes to the vaccine: You should take what comes first...

She said that the situation with the vaccine wasn't what they had previously expected, but that's why the vaccination plan was changed.

"There will be enough for everyone even though the pharmaceutical industry has reduced its deliveries. The vaccination plan had to be changed to meet the two-dose vaccination, which is a guarantee of protection against infection. Let's not forget that we had an earthquake in Sisak-Moslavina County where doses had to be redirected in order to quickly vaccinate the population that ended up without anywhere to live and had to be in a place where the spread of the virus is made more possible.The spread didn't happen, the situation in that county didn't eventually become alarming, but a lot of people were vaccinated and we're satisfied with how we stand with that. It would've been better if we'd had the quantity of vaccine we'd expected,'' Marija Bubas added.

She pointed out that it was a fortunate circumstance that the AstraZeneca vaccine had been approved for use in the EU.

"We expect that more serious quantities of this vaccine will be delivered to Croatia in February. You should be vaccinated, so you should just receive the vaccine that comes first. A vaccination platform will be available for that, ie for ordering vaccination. When we see what quantities will arrive in the coming weeks, we'll make a plan. "

Bubas doesn't yet know when the platform will become available to citizens, but it is being "hurriedly worked on" and the hope is to launch it soon. She noted that new strains of the virus have not yet been discovered in Croatia, but she claims that new strains are present in the region.

"New strains exist in our neighbourhood. It hasn't been discovered in Croatia yet, but we're monitoring the situation. As these new strains spread, they show how great the mobility of the population is. Another good answer to stop the spread of new strains, prevent deaths and reduce the burden on the healthcare system is vaccination,'' she stressed. She believes that the measures shouldn't be relaxed even in mid-February and that a higher level of vaccination should be expected.

"I think we're going to have to wait for a higher level of vaccination to take place, but that's just an opinion. We have to look around, throughout Europe the measures are stricter in most countries, they're preparing for the penetration of new strains in some countries and there is no thought of relaxing anything. Although our situation is good, we must be careful with relaxations,'' stated Marija Bubas.

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