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.

Monday, 15 March 2021

Minister Beros: Theoretically Possible for Croatia to Order Russian Vaccine

March the 15th, 2021 - Croatian Health Minister Beros has spoken out about the EU vaccination rollout and the possibility of Croatia getting its hands on the Russian Sputnik vaccine without needing permission to do so from the EU. Theoretically, he says, it is possible.

As Poslovni Dnevnik writes, the question of whether Croatia is already experiencing the third wave of the pandemic, what is going on with mass vaccination, a look at the country´s epidemiological measures and the tourist season were questions answered by Health Minister Vili Beros on HRT.

This week we record 28 percent more infections than we did last week...

¨On the 384th day since the beginning of the pandemic in Croatia, apart from the newly infected, today there are 855 patients who were hospitalised, which is as many as 50 more than yesterday, meaning that in the last 24 hours, 92 people were hospitalised. This indicates that the virus remains very much around us and that we all need to be careful and act together. It´s extremely important that we follow the basic measures because these are factors that can prevent the spread of infection. In the context of the upcoming tourist season, this is exactly what needs to be constantly mentioned. We´re all responsible for what will happen tomorrow,¨ Minister Beros said.

When asked if there will be another tightening up of the measures at the national level if this trend of an increasing number of patients continues, Minister Beros stated that the National Civil Protection Headquarters has been emphasising the role of county headquarters since back in autumn and is trying to encourage staff to think locally. An example of this, he says, is down in Dubrovnik-Neretva County, their headquarters concluded that something had to change there and he thanked them for that. He added that they will think more about local action depending on the epidemiological situation, than about horisontal measures that would apply to the whole of Croatia.

¨328 thousand doses of vaccine were used and 257 thousand citizens have been vaccinated. 56.7 percent of these doses were related to those in the second vaccination group, ie the elderly and the chronically ill. The Croatian healthcare system is able to vaccinate even more, but things are being limited by the quantities of vaccines coming into Croatia that are less than what was agreed on and expected. The Prime Minister and everyone else are making efforts to respond to these challenges as well,¨ Minister Beros said.

The AstraZeneca vaccine

Minister Beros emphasised the importance of scientific evaluation of everything related to vaccination. He said that approximately a thousand people are hospitalised annually in Croatia for various sorts of thrombosis or embolism. Another 2,200 due to pulmonary embolism, and a total of 3,200 of our fellow citizens, or 9 are hospitalised daily due to thrombo-embolic incidents. From that, he notes, a certain part of them does die and will continue to die. Therefore, given the number of vaccinated people, it is unfortunately to be expected that such deaths will continue. It is important that side effects are reported frequently so that more research can be carried out.

¨The WHO has announced recently that over 268 million people in the world have been vaccinated with the AstraZeneca vaccine and that no significant deviations, incidents or deaths related to this vaccine have been found. This has been confirmed by our British colleagues who have extensive experience and a large number of vaccinated people,¨ the Minister added.

The Russian Sputnik vaccine and Croatia

¨We´re still oriented towards joint procurement through the European Commission (EC) and we believe that the circumstances will improve. Recent announcements by vaccine manufacturers that they will increase doses are in favour of this. However, if this is not the case, we will have to orient ourselves and organise ourselves towards some other manufacturers. Croatia has made contact with the Russian health authorities and some documentation has been received. Tomorrow we will start the evaluation process in HALMED. Whether this documentation is complete and how long the procedure will last, I cannot say at this moment in time,¨ said Minister Beros.

When asked what should happen for Croatia to start purchasing vaccines on its own, he answered that several factors are crucial:

¨This will depend on whether the EC will take our remarks into account in regard to the need for corrective mechanisms that will balance out the delivery of vaccines, furthermore, will the manufacturers, as announced, increase those deliveries, all these are elements that will play their role at some point. The task of this Government is to provide citizens with a safe, effective and quality vaccine. When we´re sure that a vaccine is like that, then we will open the doors to that vaccine, but not before.

It is theoretically possible to import the Russian vaccine through intervention imports. If necessary, I will personally support it because it will mean that European mechanisms have failed, which I believe will not happen,¨ concluded Minister Beros.

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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.

Friday, 19 February 2021

Plenkovic: Vaccines Must Protect Croatian Citizens Until Tourist Season

February 19, 2021 - Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic said at Thursday's Government's that vaccines must protect Croatian citizens until the tourist season. 

HRTurizam reports that if the epidemiological situation continues to develop in a good direction, measures could be further eased from March 1, Prime Minister Andrej Plenković pointed out at Thursday's 44th Government session.

Prime Minister Plenković said that the trend of declining COVID-19 cases continues for the tenth week in a row and that the weekly average is 75 confirmed cases per million inhabitants. He added that the dynamics of vaccination are intensifying. With new shipments, there will be over 700,000 doses in Croatia by the end of March, which will significantly increase the number of vaccinated citizens.

Whether this means that catering facilities or at least terraces will finally open remains to be seen.

The weekly average is 75 confirmed cases per million inhabitants, which puts Croatia in third place in the European Union, behind Finland and Denmark.

Plenković: We expect significantly more vaccine doses by June to ensure maximum protection of citizens until the tourist season

By the tourist season, we want to ensure the maximum possible protection of citizens with the vaccine, said Plenković and added that the Government's task is to ensure as many vaccine doses by the end of the first quarter and reminded that another 600,000 doses should arrive in Croatia by the end of March. He added that significantly more doses should come in April, May, and June to ensure maximum protection for citizens until the tourist season.

"Croatia, like other members of the European Union, relies on the European Medicines Agency for the safety and reliability of vaccines and medicines. Something that ultimately goes directly into the context of any of our fellow citizens' health conditions must be reliable. We need to have confidence in the vaccine or drug that is coming to our market. The key is that once the EMA approves a drug and all agencies confirm it at the national level, then the responsibility for that drug or for that vaccine lies with the pharmaceutical company. In the variant that we put this medicine on the market without these filters, then we also respond in that way, and that is why Hungary went through the verification procedure," Plenković said about the possibility of purchasing the Russian vaccine two days ago.

If the reliability of these vaccines is proven, additional quantities will be used to speed up the vaccination process, Plenković added, emphasizing that Croatia is not currently considering vaccine production but aims to protect citizens with the purchased vaccines.

By the way, Croatia ordered 2.7 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine, 1.9 million doses of Pfizer, one million doses of Moderna, and one million doses of Johnson & Johnson. It is important to emphasize how all three vaccines are effective so that there are no fatalities, severe symptoms, hospitalization, and respirators.

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Sunday, 14 February 2021

Not in a Coronavirus Risk Group? Here's How to Arrange Vaccination

February the 13th, 2021 - Want to get vaccinated against the novel coronavirus but don't fall into a coronavirus risk group? Here's how you can manage to get your hands on one of the current vaccinations available in Croatia.

As Poslovni Dnevnik writes, those who don't yet fall into what are being classified as priority or coronavirus risk groups need to know the following:

1. For vaccination against COVID-19, you can state your wish to be vaccinated and apply to your GP to be seen, or if that isn't possible, you can do the same the competent county public health institute responsible for the area you live in.

2. If you aren't able to be vaccinated in your place of usual residence, or from your GP, you can contact the competent county public health institute in the place of your current residence for vaccination.

nge3. In Croatia, you can get vaccinated against COVID-19 free of charge, regardless of the type of health insurance you have, or even if you for whatever reason don't have it.

4. Due to the limited quantities of vaccines available, vaccination is currently being carried out according to each defined coronavirus risk group, which are often called priority groups, in accordance with the National Vaccination Plan against COVID-19. The start of vaccination of persons from certain coronavirus risk groups depends on the availability of vaccines at any given time, the response to vaccination, but also the number of persons belonging to these priority groups.

The plan has been and continues to be to first vaccinate employees and users of homes for the elderly (and other institutions for the provision of accommodation within the social welfare system) and healthcare workers, then (conditionally speaking, in the second phase of vaccination) all persons over 65 and all persons with chronic diseases, independent of their age, and finally (conditionally speaking, the third phase) the entire population.

5. Before receiving your coronavirus vaccination, your doctor will ask you for the necessary information - it is necessary to make it clear if you have ever had any severe allergic reactions or severe acute infection with an accompanying high body temperature. According to the information provided, the doctor will then decide whether you can be vaccinated with the currently available vaccine or whether the vaccination should be postponed until a more suitable one is made available.

6. People are advised to stick to the appointments they succeed in making with their doctors when it comes to vaccination.

The Croatian Institute of Public Health confirmed for that it currently isn't known when the vaccination of citizens who don't belong to either priority groups or a coronavirus risk group will begin at all.

"Unfortunately, we can't say when the vaccine will start arriving in large enough quantities to start vaccinating that part of the population,'' they stated, also confirming that the vaccination of the majority of the population is expected by the end of autumn this year.

“A digital vaccination ordering platform is being prepared, which should be operational by the end of the week. The launch of the platform will be made public, and it is expected to be linked to county platforms. Through it, people will be informed about the date and place of vaccination,'' they stated from the Croatian Institute of Public Health.

The platform should be available at this web address, but it is not operational today.

In the meantime, Medjimurje County was the first to present its platform for applying for vaccination. What other counties will do and how is not yet known.

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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.

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.

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