Saturday, 24 April 2021

Ministry Denies Claims That COVID Jab Bookings Were Deleted From Platform

April 24, 2021 - The health ministry on Saturday refuted media allegations about deleting 4,000 Covid jab bookings for getting vaccinated from the CijepiSe registration platform on 23 February.

The ministry explained that some minor technical deficiencies appeared in connecting the relevant data about holders of social security numbers during the test trial of the platform.

The ministry was notified about this information after it asked the company to develop and manage the platform to give its opinion on the matter.

It has been established that all the data relevant for making vaccination appointments were not connected in the case of 200 citizens who booked COVID vaccinations during the trial test of the platform.

As soon as it got this information, the ministry demanded an urgent solution to the problem, and then solving the issue is ongoing, the ministry said.

The ministry dispelled fears that this might adversely affect the schedule for getting vaccinated, explaining that the schedule for administering COVID-19 vaccinations is arranged according to the priorities defined in the vaccine rollout plan and not according to o the date of sending the request for vaccination.

As many as 160,000 Croatians have booked COVID vaccines through the, and no irregularities except the above-mentioned technical problem involving 200 entries have been recorded.

For more about COVID-19 in Croatia, follow TCN's dedicated page.

Sunday, 14 March 2021

Expert Says: No Link Between Death of 91-year-old Woman and Vaccination

ZAGREB, 13 March 2021 - The head of Croatia's Agency for Medicinal Products and Medical Services (HALMED), Siniša Tomić, said on Saturday that according to preliminary data he did not believe that there was a connection between the death of a 91-year-old woman and her inoculation with AstraZeneca vaccine against COVID.

The HALMED regulator and the Croatian Institute of Public Health (HZJZ) are supposed to adopt their joint conclusion on this matter next week; he told the national broadcaster HTV on Saturday evening.

HALMED is looking into a 7 March report of a fatal pulmonary embolism in the 91-year-old woman three days after receiving a shot of AstraZeneca.

According to Tomić, this case will also be on the agenda of the Pharmacovigilance Risk Assessment Committee (PRAC) of the European Medicines Agency (EMA).

Tomić said that to date, 14 reports had been submitted in Croatia about side effects with death outcome after inoculations against coronavirus. In nine cases, the reports were sent after the inoculation with the Pfizer vaccine and in five with AstraZeneca.

In six cases, it has been ruled out that the death might be associated with inoculation. In two cases, this relationship does not seem probable, and in another six cases, the authorities are waiting for more supporting documents.

To read more about Coronavirus in Croatia, follow TCN's dedicated page.

Saturday, 13 March 2021

PM: Croatia has Ordered Enough Vaccines, Demands They be Delivered

ZAGREB, 13 March 2021 - Croatia has ordered "more than enough" COVID-19 vaccines via the European Commission's centralised system but is faced with late deliveries because manufacturers are not honouring what has been signed, Prime Minister Andrej Plenković has told France 24.

He was speaking for "Talking Europe", a programme on French national television, while visiting Brussels on Thursday and Friday.

"We ordered more than enough, but the vaccines are distributed pro rata, that is how much vaccine you ordered from which company."

He said he came to Brussels because Croatia was faced with late deliveries. "That's the main reason I'm here... I insist that what we signed, what we ordered, be delivered."

"I talked about it with European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and her team. We ordered the vaccine via the centralised system set up by the Commission."

Regarding the AstraZeneca vaccine, Plenković agreed with Rome's decision to block a delivery of 250,000 doses to Australia. He said he supported the Italian authorities' move to send "a concrete signal" to AstraZeneca that "it must honour what has been signed."

That is in no way against Australia, but it's necessary to remind companies that they must adhere to signed agreements, he added.

Since Croatia has vaccinated only 5% of its population and has, alongside France, one of the lowest vaccination rates in the EU, he was asked if he was willing, like Hungary, to buy the Russian vaccine without the approval of the European Medicines Agency.

"Every government must approach with the utmost caution matters concerning public health, people's safety and vaccination. The EMA and the Croatian medicines agency are filters, and experts must help governments make wise decisions. To me as prime minister, public health and the safety and protection of our citizens will always come first."

Regarding the suspension of vaccination with AstraZeneca in a number of European countries due to allegedly serious side effects, including blood clots, Plenković said no such cases had been registered in Croatia.

"We haven't noticed any of the side effects after the administration of AstraZeneca/Oxford that may have occurred in other countries. On the contrary, we believed from the start that this vaccine is good also for our citizens older than 65," he said.

"At this moment, according to the information we have, we have neither reason nor grounds to apply that measure and will continue to use the AstraZeneca vaccine," he added.

Speaking of the Commission's proposal to introduce so-called COVID passports, whereby travellers would certify that they are vaccinated or have a negative PCR test, Plenković said it could be part of a strategy to bring tourists back to Croatia.

He said "it could serve as an aid to enable free travel. That's something we should consider."

To read more about Covid-19 in Croatia, follow TCN's dedicated page

Monday, 8 March 2021

Women Better Responded to COVID-19 Vaccine, Study Shows

ZAGREB, 8 March, 2021 - People who had recovered from COVID-19 had a considerably high level of antibodies after the first dose of vaccine, which did not increase after the second shot, so they most probably will not need a second dose, the director of the Hospital for Infectious Diseases in Zagreb, Alemka Markotić, said on Monday.

Speaking at a regular press conference given by the national COVID-19 response team, Markotić presented the results of a study conducted by the hospital among its staff. The results have also been requested by the European Medicines Agency.

Women responded better than men

All staff had statistically considerably higher immunoglobulin levels a month after the second dose of vaccine compared with the first dose. Women responded better and had higher levels than men, especially after the second dose. There was a slightly negative correlation with age, as elderly subjects had a weaker response, which was moderate, Markotić said.

After the second dose, there was a considerable rise in the level of antibodies. None of the staff fell ill after the vaccination, and no differences were established among staff in respect of their job at the hospital, she added.

So far 426 (55.3%) of the staff at the Hospital for Infectious Diseases have received two doses of the Pfizer vaccine. Eight of them developed allergic reactions after the first dose and were not administered a second dose.

Initial serological tests were done on 420 staff three weeks after the administration of the first dose and shortly before the second dose, while second serological tests were performed on 82 staff four weeks after the second dose.

The subjects were 344 women and 89 men. They included 321 health workers and 112 workers in the healthcare system who are not in as close contact with patients as health workers.

Women better responded to the vaccine after the first and second shots. There is a negative correlation between the level of antibodies and age, which was expected given that the immunology system becomes less responsive with ageing, Markotić said.

Monday, 8 March 2021

Epidemiologist: Roll-Out of Johnson & Johnson Vaccine to Start in Croatia in Early April

ZAGREB, 8 March, 2021 - The distribution of the Johnson & Johnson coronavirus single-dose vaccine can be expected in Croatia in early April, the head of Zagreb's Fran Mihaljević hospital for infectious diseases said on Sunday evening.

Asked by the commercial NOVA TV broadcaster whether Croatia is facing the third wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, the hospital's head, Dr. Alemka Markotić, said that the developments in Croatia's neighbourhood and in Europe "are being followed with the closest attention."

"The numbers are rapidly rising. Each country is trying to take care of its specific features and act accordingly," the doctor said adding that Croatia is currently among the countries that are faring best against COVID.

Markotić recalls that the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) tried to give some common guidelines, however, everybody assessed that their respective countries had too many differences and specific features.

"(Anti-epidemic) measures are important, we should adhere to them so as to keep the things at bay," Markotić said, among other things.

She added that on Monday a team of Croatian researchers would present findings of a study about the efficacy of the second shot of two-dose vaccines. The research has been conducted in Croatia.

The findings show that a high antibody titer was produced by some organisms after the they received the second dose of the COVID vaccination, she said.

Tuesday, 9 February 2021

Epidemiologist: At This Rate, Vaccination Goal Won't Be Met Until Autumn

February 9, 2021 – In a Croatian media TV interview, epidemiologist of the Croatian Institute of Public Health Bernard Kaić yesterday said the plan to vaccinate half of the population by the summer will be delayed. He predicted that if Croatia continues vaccination at its current rate, the goal would not be reached until autumn, possibly late autumn

Epidemiologist of the Croatian Institute of Public Health Bernard Kaić, speaking to Croatian media RTL, told them the plan to vaccinate half of the population by the summer will be delayed. The epidemiologist predicted that if Croatia continues vaccination at its current rate, the goal of vaccinating half of the population within the country will not be completed until autumn, possibly late autumn.

"I can't say (by) exactly how much,” he told RTL, regarding how much delay will occur, “because we still don't know how many vaccines we'll get in March. And (how much) after March we (still) have no idea.”

“If this pace continues, it would take four million doses to vaccinate half the population. We won't achieve that until autumn for sure, and it’s late autumn,” the epidemiologist said.

According to an article in Index, the epidemiologist said that, as things currently stand, there will be three vaccines used in Croatia - AstraZeneca, Moderna and Pfizer / BioNTech. They will be used concurrently, with vaccinations from all three available in Croatia at the same time.

When asked which vaccine he would choose to be vaccinated with, the epidemiologist answered that he did not know and that he was glad that he did not have the opportunity to choose. "There was only one offered so I got vaccinated,” said the epidemiologist. “It would be really hard to decide."

When asked why some states have given up vaccinating those over the age of 65 with the AstraZeneca vaccine, the epidemiologist explained that in currently available results from clinical studies the messenger RNA vaccine had proven to be somewhat more effective in preventing mild forms of Coronavirus than the AstraZeneca vaccine. Some of the vaccines work in different ways. However, the epidemiologist ultimately said that it was expected the AstraZeneca vaccine would prove to be effective, it was just that this had not yet been proven statistically.

bernard-kaic-e505fb44671c29c2fdonRTL.jpgRTL screenshot

Later in the interview, the epidemiologist was asked “Due to skepticism towards AstraZeneca, many associations in (Croatia's) border areas plan to take pensioners to Serbia for vaccination. How smart is it to accept such an arrangement?”

The epidemiologist replied; “My only fear is that such organized trips do not turn into corona-trips so that people do not get infected on the way back and forth and do themselves harm. I would wait.”

The three vaccines for which Croatia is currently expecting deliveries are now not the only vaccines available. Speaking in a discussion on the same evening on another Croatian media outlet, HRT, Zlatko Trobonjača, an immunologist from the Rijeka Clinical Hospital, spoke about the Russian vaccine.

"Our country is obviously following the EU and its decisions,” he said. “The EU has entered into talks with Russia. It can be expected that these talks will continue. It is a quality vaccine, it provides high protection.”

"As for the quality of the vaccine, we can see that it is not harmful and it could be used in our country. The EU is oriented towards Western companies. And now, they (the companies) did not stick to the agreement," Trobonjača said, adding that he would be vaccinated with the first vaccine that was made available to him.

Friday, 5 February 2021

Epidemiologist Goranka Petrovic Discusses Vaccination in Croatia

February the 5th, 2021 - Croatian epidemiologist Goranka Petrovic has discussed the situation with the ongoing pandemic in Croatia, as well as the current state of vaccination against the novel coronavirus across the country.

As Poslovni Dnevnik writes, new strains of coronavirus are threatening not only Croatia but all other countries which are yet to register any cases of the typically more infectious strain, and new doses of the vaccine are frustratingly still not arriving as planned. What exactly is the vaccination rate in this country?

Epidemiologist Goranka Petrovic said that confirmation came from AstraZeneca a couple of days ago that the first shipment of their coronavirus vaccine, which comes in the amount of a little less than 9,000 doses, should be received by Croatia during the next week, most likely on February the 9th. They also confirmed further doses - a total of about 150,000 doses of the vaccine coming throughout the month of February.

"At the moment, the first coronavirus vaccinations are underway, not the second dose of vaccination. About one and a half percent of the population of Croatia has received one or two vaccine doses, and a total of about nine thousand doses of vaccine were used,'' she told HTV, stressing that further vaccination will go more quickly because deliveries will stabilsze, Pfizer vaccines are set to come even in larger quantities during March.

Asked whether the AstraZeneca product would be used to vaccinate the elderly in that case, Goranka Petrovic replied that the European Medicines Agency had approved and registered the AstraZeneca vaccine for people aged eighteen and older and had not given an upper age limit.

She only mentioned that there is not enough data on the effectiveness of this particular vaccine on people over the age of 65, which doesn't mean that it is not effective, but that there was simply a smaller share of those people in the research.

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Monday, 1 February 2021

Croatia Will Get Russian Vaccine If It Asks for It, Says Ambassador

ZAGREB, 1 February, 2021 - Croatia will get the Russian COVID-19 vaccine if it asks for it, Russian Ambassador Andrey Nesterenko said in an interview with the Monday issue of the Večernji List daily.

EU countries, including Croatia, have been having difficulty obtaining pre-ordered vaccines and Russia is willing to provide 100 million doses in the second quarter, as confirmed to the daily by Ambassador Nesterenko.

Even though Croatia has still not officially asked Russia for the vaccine, Nesterenko says that the head of a research group at Zagreb's Ruđer Bošković Institute, Dragomira Meichen, is Croatia's representative on the international scientific council for the Sputnik V vaccine and that the platform for consultations with Croatian experts already exists.

Sputnik V has a number of advantages that greatly simplify the delivery of the vaccine worldwide - it is stored at temperatures ranging from 2 to 8 degrees Celsius, which makes it possible to keep it in an ordinary refrigerator, and the price per dose is less than US$ 10, which makes the vaccine affordable for many countries, the diplomat said.

The ambassador also said that the Russian vaccine could play an important role in the fight against the pandemic and be used in UN missions.

UN Secretary-General António Guterres has therefore expressed hope that the World Health Organisation would approve the vaccine as soon as possible, the diplomat said.

He noted that Russia had so far received orders for the purchase of 1.2 billion doses of the vaccine from more than 50 countries.

Nesterenko added that the vaccine was being actively used in Russia, with vaccination conducted not only in hospitals but also in shopping malls and other venues. He added that a centre for the vaccination of foreign nationals had been opened in Moscow and that some of the foreign ambassadors serving in Russia had been vaccinated with Sputnik V.

Friday, 22 January 2021

Health Official Says Not Satisfied With Pace of Vaccine Delivery

ZAGREB, 22 January, 2021 - Croatian Public Health Institute (HZJZ) director Krunoslav Capak said on Friday that he was not satisfied with the pace of COVID-19 vaccine delivery and that the vaccination plan would have to be changed because less than planned supplies were being delivered.

"We are not satisfied with the delivery, it is far below what we agreed. What makes the situation more difficult is that at the beginning we were given larger quantities of the vaccine and in the meantime they have decreased," Capak said at a news conference of the national coronavirus crisis management team.

"We will manage to vaccinate everyone who has been given the first dose of the vaccine but new vaccinations will have to be suspended as we do not have new vaccine supplies to begin administering the Pfizer vaccine," Capak said.

He added that Pfizer had reduced its deliveries for the next month by 30%.

Moderna, too, has changed the amount of the vaccine to be delivered, the delivery is a week late and it was promised that 11,000 doses would be delivered after February 1, he said.

"We must change the vaccination schedule because at the moment we do not have enough of the Pfizer vaccine to increase the number of people to be vaccinated but are keeping it for the second round of vaccination," he said.

The AstraZeneca vaccine is expected to be registered on 29 January, its fast distribution has been promised and additional quantities, promised after the 29 December earthquake, are expected from the EU.

Capak says that the rate of inoculation of the population depends on vaccine deliveries but that with greater quantities of the AstraZeneca vaccine and all the other vaccines, it is possible to achieve a high rate of inoculation of the general population by summer.

He said that the epidemiological situation in the country had improved but that there was a danger of new virus strains and that one should also take into account the situation in the earthquake-hit Sisak-Moslavina County when considering possible relaxation of restrictions.

He said that compared to the previous week, there was a 21% drop in the number of new infections. The incidence is highest in Sisak-Moslavina County, which has a rate of 428 infections per 100,000 people, and it is lowest in Istria, with 114.5 new infections per 100,000 people.

The share of new infections in the tests done is 12.3%, which puts Croatia in 13th place in the EU. So far 64,951 people have been vaccinated, and in Sisak-Moslavina County 5,863 have been vaccinated, said Capak.

Markotić: New virus mutations put us where we were a year ago

The head of Zagreb's Dr Fran Mihaljević hospital for infectious diseases, Alemka Markotić, said that the third variant of the virus originated in Brazil and that it differed from the strains in Great Britain and South Africa.

It seems this virus could partly bypass the response of antibodies in persons who have developed immunity either because they got infected or were vaccinated, and that can also affect serological testing, she warned.

The entire EU is agreed that virus genome sequencing should be stepped up, she said, warning that coronavirus was prone to mutation and sought new ways to spread.

As for possible relaxation of anti-epidemic measures, she called for caution, citing the winter season, which facilitated the spread of the virus.

Even though vaccines seem to be effective against the strain from Great Britain, one should follow new mutations and adapt diagnostic tests to the new variants, she said.

The European Commission believes that the new variants of the virus put us back where we were a year ago when it appeared. Everyone hopes that the existing vaccines and tests will be appropriate for new variants but we have to be extremely cautious to prevent them from spreading, Markotić said.

Božinović: Measures to be defined at meeting on Sunday 

The head of the national coronavirus crisis management team, Minister of the Interior Davor Božinović, declined to comment on the possible relaxation of epidemiological restrictions, saying that members of the coronavirus crisis management team and government ministers would meet on Sunday to discuss the topic.

He stressed that there was no draft for the relaxation of restrictions in the hospitality sector, an issue raised in recent days by the national hospitality sector association.

Božinović confirmed that inspections had been stepped up in ski resorts and spas and that so far 99 fines had been collected for failure to wear a face mask and 853 warnings had been issued.

He also said that the EU was ready to provide financial assistance for virus genome sequencing in the member-states.

"The European Commission wants the member-countries to sequence at least five percent of positive COVID-19 tests. We must step up our efforts to prevent potential damage from new strains," said Božinović.

Earlier in the day, the team said that in the last 24 hours, 643 new coronavirus infections had been confirmed and 32 people had died of the consequences of the coronavirus infection.

Friday, 15 January 2021

PM Plenkovic: Vaccine Order Raised, Most Croats to be Vaccinated by End of April

January the 15th, 2021 - PM Plenkovic has announced that the Croatian Government has ordered more of the new coronavirus vaccine and plans to vaccinate the population by the end of April this year. Pfizer's vaccine has been in use since the end of December in Croatia, and mass vaccination will hopefully soon see the end of the pandemic of the novel coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2, finally declared.

The advent and subsequent approval of several coronavirus vaccines has offered a much-needed light at the end of a very long, very dark tunnel for the vast majority of people, and Croatia only having a small population might finally go in its favour as vaccination is rolled out across the country.

As Poslovni Dnevnik writes, at a recent Croatian Government session, among other things, PM Plenkovic happily reported on the current course of coronavirus vaccination across the country and announced what the government intends to do in this regard over the next few months.

"As far as the pandemic is concerned, I want to say that after the measures we introduced back at the end of November, along with the great level of responsibility of Croatia's residents, we managed to ensure a better epidemiological picture, Croatia can now boast of the biggest two-week decline in the entire European Union," said PM Plenkovic.

"So far, 38,000 people have been vaccinated against the novel coronavirus. We have increased Croatia's vaccine orders from both Pfizer and Moderna. We additionally took a million Moderna vaccines. The Oxford vaccine will be approved on January the 29th, and we have ordered 2.5 million doses from that, too. Large amounts of doses of these vaccines can be expected in February and March. With that in mind, it can be expected that the majority of Croatia's population will be vaccinated by the end of April,'' announced PM Plenkovic.

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