Monday, 11 October 2021

Immunologist Luka Cicin Sain: New Vaccine to Come at End of Year

October the 11th, 2021 - Croatian Immunologist Luka Cicin Sain is part of a team researching a new vaccine intended for use against the novel coronavirus, which has put the world more or less on hold for over eighteen months now. He claims that this new and ''improved'' vaccine could make an appearance on the market as soon as the end of the year.

As Poslovni Dnevnik writes, immunologist Luka Cicin Sain has stated that the question is what the response will be in regard to a third dose of the vaccine when new ones are placed on the market.

''We could have new, improved vaccines that are currently being worked on in just a few months,'' noted immunologist Luka Cicin-Sain, whose team is also involved in research into new vaccines.

"The Wuhan virus and the Delta variant aren't the same, but the differences between them aren't big"

Despite the fact that so far we have had several different strains of the novel coronavirus that have each at some point dominated and spread among the population, such as the British, South African, and now the Delta strain - the coronavirus vaccines which are currently available for use have all remained the same, more or less meaning that they've been adapted to the very first Wuhan strain which is now virtually non-existent, overtaken by various other strains. The question on the lips of many is: Why get vaccinated with a third dose in that case at all?

“The Wuhan virus and the Delta virus aren't the samw, but the differences between them aren't big. The difference lies in the spike protein, and that’s what our antibodies recognise when we get vaccinated against a virus, they’ve only changed a few amino acids out of a thousand amino acids that make up this protein. Antibodies that are created after vaccination, which recognise these strains, can block both strains from entering the cells,'' explained viral immunologist Luka Cicin Sain recently for Dnevnik Nova TV.

"It's realistic to expect that some new coronavirus vaccines will be on the market at the end of the year"

He added that laboratories around the world are working on modifying the current vaccines.

"Vaccines that have a Delta strain spike instead of a Wuhan one are already being tested," said the Croatian immunologist, who is also participating in such research.

"We've seen that it works very well with animals, that we can see longer-term protection, but we haven't yet come to ask the regulatory agencies to start experimenting on humans. That said, others certainly already underdoing clinical trials in humans. It's realistic to expect that new vaccine formulations will be on the market at the end of this year or the very beginning of next year,'' he pointed out, but stressed that it isn't yet known how much the vaccine will protect against strains which are yet to appear.

"There will be more types of coronavirus vaccines, just as there are with influenza vaccines"

He said there would be no single vaccine, but more types, which is done in a similar way each year for new influenza strains.

“Some of them will insert several variants of the spike, which is the case with influenza vaccines,” he explained.

Some people have been getting tests to check their antibody levels and see how protected they are. How good is that as an indicator?

"It’s not really ideal because there are cases where someone may have high levels of antibodies but that aren’t particularly effective, and vice versa. If you have a high amount of antibodies, it probably means that you don't need a third dose of the vaccine,'' immunologist Luka Cicin Sain stated.

He pointed out that there is still no clear information about people who have been infected with the novel coronavirus several times. It’s hard to say who contracted it and then recovered twice because some of them weren’t symptomatic the first time.

"With vaccines, it's clear - if someone has been vaccinated, there's information about it. It isn't to be expected that vaccination and natural immunity will be the same, but natural immunity is acquired in a very expensive way, because it can cost lives,'' concluded immunologist Luka Cicin Sain.

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Wednesday, 1 September 2021

Epidemiologist Dijana Mayer: Third Vaccine Possible for Vulnerable Groups

September the 1st, 2021 - Croatian epidemiologist Dijana Mayer has claimed that the situation with the spread of the virus across Croatia currently isn't that great. She also touched on the vaccination of children, anti-epidemic measures and the idea of a third dose of the vaccine this autumn.

As Poslovni Dnevnik writes, epidemiologist Dijana Mayer of the Croatian Institute of Public Health told HRT recently that unfortunately, the situation is not good.

''This week we have an increase in the number of cases from 20 to 25 percent when compared to previous weeks. As the summer draws to a close, as people return to their places of residence and their jobs, the number of tests taken will grow, and we can see that we have an increase in the number of new cases. We have a more significant number of hospitalised people, ie patients with a severe clinical picture who need help in the form of respirators,'' said epidemiologist Dijana Mayer.

"This is one of the important indicators for us because of the hospital system, we need to make sure it isn't burdened abruptly. Hospitals are ready to accept patients, but it would be ideal if there were as few hospitalised coronavirus patients as possible,'' she added.

She noted that more than 80 percent of those hospitalised with coronavirus, as well as patients with a very severe clinical picture and needing the help of a respirator were not vaccinated.

"That is why we're appealing to people to please come and get vaccinated. The vaccine protects against severe forms of the disease developing. It doesn't matter if we get sick and have a mild clinical picture, but it does matter if we develop severe pneumonia where we end up in intensive care, on a respirator,'' she said.

Both doses of the coronavirus vaccine have successfully been given to 51 percent of the Croatian adult population. When asked if we would have to receive a third dose, epidemiologist Dijana Mayer said it was being discussed.

“Vaccination with a third dose is likely to start in early autumn and it will be aimed at older and more vulnerable groups of people, those who are immunocompromised and those with more severe chronic diseases,” she said.

When asked if the remarkably successful tourist season is to blame for the increase in the number of infected people, epidemiologist Dijana Mayer said that we can all be proud and satisfied with the tourist season.

"We're happy that July and August went so well for us in terms of new patients. We're satisfied with the number of tourists who came. Summer is a time to relax and socialise. Of course, any larger gatherings, where people weren't vaccinated, was a potential hotbed of infection and it was a pool for new patients. We believe that the season will be extended for at least another week or two, maybe for even longer,'' said the epidemiologist.

According to the ECDC corona map, Croatia is orange, and Mayer hopes that it will remain so.

"We believe that we'll be able to vaccinate as many people as possible as they return home from being away for summer. People are also being vaccinated wherever they are on the coast. All counties will have vaccination points available from September the 1st, this means that all foreign residents, tourists and locals can come for vaccination. Each county bureau has several appointments and checkpoints. Those interested can easily get information and get their vaccine,'' she said.

The vaccine is registered for children from 12 years of age and older is recommended for those who have severe chronic diseases, who are immunocompromised, and those who have malignant, cardiovascular and lung diseases. Children can be vaccinated by a competent school doctor.

"About 1,200 children up to the age of 14 have been vaccinated, and when looking at those aged 15-19, about 10,000 have had the vaccine. It isn't a large number at the moment, but we're very pleased that the parents are aware and have given their consent for their children to be vaccinated. The covid vaccine isn't mandatory for anyone, not even for children, but it is recommended. Especially because children live in households with their grandparents, parents who have chronic diseases and children can be potentially dangerous for their family members,'' she said.

From September the 1st, currently closed off parts of coffee bars and cafe will finally open, much to the delight of those who have been unable to work for months on end. Epidemiologist Dijana Mayer said that this decision was very much welcomed by all.

"It's the first step in getting back to normal. We hope that people will continue to behave responsibly, that they will wear masks, it's important to ventilate the premises and the owners will surely take care of that. There will be a disinfectant at the entrance to each cafe. It is in everyone's interest that these closed parts of the cafe are able to work normally for as long as possible,'' concluded epidemiologist Dijana Mayer.

For all you need to know about coronavirus specific to Croatia, make sure to bookmark our dedicated COVID-19 section and select your preferred language.

Sunday, 18 July 2021

CNIPH's Croatian Vaccination Campaign Launches With Videos

July the 18th, 2021 - The Croatian vaccination campaign has been stepped up a notch by the Croatian Institute of Public Health, this time with a few familiar faces and videos.

The Croatian vaccination rollout hasn't been quite going as planned or hoped, with less than 50 percent of the country's population vaccinated, efforts to encourage people to get the jab are being ramped up in some rather creative ways.

With new variants appearing in different parts of Europe and problems surrounding travel easing but still posing a problem, covid passports are now a reality for many. With restrictions looming for those who aren't vaccinated or can't prove themselves to be negative, the Croatian vaccination campaign has engaged some famous faces from various fields to help.

As Poslovni Dnevnik writes, the videos the Croatian vaccination campaign, more precisely the Croatian Institute of Public Health, will use in their promotion of the vaccine will last for around thirty seconds and involve a few well known Croatian faces.

Those individuals will explain why it's important to get vaccinated against the novel coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2, on both a personal and a collective level.

The first household names to appear will be Tonci Huljic and Zoran Sprajc, with more public people expected.

For all you need to know about coronavirus specific to Croatia, including travel, border and quarantine rules, as well as the locations of testing centres and vaccination points up and down the country, make sure to bookmark our dedicated COVID-19 section and choose your preferred language.

Wednesday, 14 April 2021

Croatian Health Ministry Admits Mistake as Youth Invited for Vaccination

April the 14th, 2021 - The Croatian Health Ministry has admitted that it encountered an error as young and healthy people with little to no underlying health conditions were accidentally invited for vaccination against the novel coronavirus.

As Poslovni Dnevnik writes, younger, healthier people and those without comorbidities have been receiving invitations for vaccinations at the Zagreb Fair (Zagrebacki Velesajam) since Sunday. The move should have been to fill up places that were intended for priority groups, ie those over 65 and those with comorbidities who refused to receive the AstraZeneca vaccine, which is now being used for vaccination at the aforementioned Zagreb vaccination point.

This draws us to one important question, how is it possible for healthy 30-year-olds to receive calls for vaccination when those twice as old, such as 60-year-olds with diabetes and hypertension, not yet being invited?

The Croatian Health Ministry has since stated that regardless of when the application is registered on the platform, senior citizens and patients with chronic diseases have priority, and calls to younger and those without chronic diseases are sent out only in the case of those from priority groups dropping out. That is done according to an algorithm that calls upon replacement candidates based on their age and health status. However, they claim, their system encountered some technical problems.

"Due to a technical error in the automatic processing of the files for Tuesday, and only for the remaining dates, the deadlines were not filled up according to the confirmed algorithm," they stated from the Croatian Health Ministry for Jutarnji list, emphasising that they are working hard to eliminate the error.

As for the method of calling on people and creating priority groups, the Croatian Health Ministry says that those interested in getting vaccinated who belong to the priority group of those over the age of 65 and with chronic diseases have priority regardless of the method of application. They explain that patients with chronic diseases are put on a priority list by their family doctor, and then priority by age is then automatically dealt with by the platform.

Because the platform filters by age, the Croatian Health Ministry says they are in contact with Google because they have noticed that some of the messages are going to emails categorised as promotions.

Contacts with Google

“As a last resort, due to the observed ''behaviour'' of some of the e-mails, which continue to end up classified as promotion e-mails, and only if they are accessed through Google client applications, we're in contact with Google to properly classify these messages,'' they explained from the Croatian Health Ministry.

They added that the existing information system of CEZIH and the e-mail of the Ministry of Health were both upgraded last week. They added that people who should be vaccinated in the third phase and who have reported to their family doctors about the matter, will be invited when their turn comes.

"Since last week, the possibility of synchronising the lists of interested parties by family doctors with the central system of people registered via has been delivered to the platform. Regardless of the fact that the lists themselves are synchronised, it is still possible that in a situation of priority need for vaccination, family doctors can assign an appointment to a high-risk patient,'' they stated.

The waiting list

They also emphasised that the ordinal number in front of the application for vaccination in the system does not represent a waiting list on the basis of which citizens receive an appointment for vaccination. It is a unique application identifier that serves to register the number of total registered interested citizens and nothing more than that.

Monday was the fourth day of mass vaccination against coronavirus at the Zagreb Fair, and it was marked by a very good response from the invited indivituals. Only in the first shift, which lasted until 13:00, 1599 invited people were vaccinated, while in the second shift, from 14:00 to 19:00, a little less than that initial number was expected.

In total, up to three thousand patients are invited for vaccination daily, although the maximum capacity of numerous vaccination points is as much as five thousand patients per day.

For more on coronavirus in Croatia, including border, travel and quarantine rules, as well as the locations of testing centres up and down the country, make sure to bookmark our dedicated page.

Saturday, 13 March 2021

Prof Alemka Markotic Talks Vaccines, Testing, Discrimination

March the 13th, 2021 - Prof Alemka Markotic, the director of Zagreb´s Clinic for Infectious Diseases, has spoken out about vaccination certificates, negative test documentation and discrimination as the coronavirus pandemic rages on.

As Poslovni Dnevnik writes, the entire world has been in engulfed in the coronavirus pandemic for a full year now. 120 million people became infected globally, and tragically, more than 2 million and 600 thousand of those people died. Numerous epidemiological restrictions have been introduced that do not allow for the life to which we´re accustomed - people are tired.

The long-awaited coronavirus vaccines that evoke hope have been created and are now being rolled out, but the spread of the novel infection hasn´t stopped. The situation here in Croatia, Slovenia, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Serbia was discussed on HRT.

Infectologist Dragan Delic called in from the Serbian capital of Belgrade.

"We weren´t ready, all the problems that arrived showed in their worst of forms. We´re now suffering the consequences of some misconceptions that exist,¨ he told HRT.

“The solutions that were implemented weren´t an enjoyable thing to do. It was not the most enjoyable thing to have to do, to have to form Crisis Staff. It’s some weird body made up of doctors, health professionals, economists… Some compromises always need to be made, but there can be no compromise when it comes to medicine and science,¨ Delic said of the situation in Serbia, adding that it was inappropriate for doctors to have to weigh things up between public health and economic consequences.

"There are too many compromises being made, I cannot justify for medical reasons to be suppressed because of something else," Delic said. He noted that the problem is that citizens don´t trust the Crisis Staff, which has not always made the best decisions.

"The dominant variants will be those which are the easiest to cope with if infected, but the virus will be able to spread more easily"

"The virus is going to remain with us, it isn´t going anywhere, and it will try to find a balance. The more easy variants will be the dominant one, but the virus will spread more easily. We have no choice in this, we will become sick. The only question is what the consequences of that infection will be,¨ said Delic at the end, emphasising the importance of the vaccine.

Academician Mirsada Hukic, specialist in microbiology and subspecialist virology, reported from Sarajevo. She said that everything about the pandemic in Bosnia and Herzegovina is complicated because there is no common approach.

"The situation is very worrying," said Hukic. She added that there is no one institution that deals with the pandemic, so the situation continues to be very confusing.

In neighbouring Bosnia and Herzegovina, 12 mutations of the novel coronavirus have now been isolated, three of which have become dominant, said Hukic.

Vice-dean of the Medical Faculty in Ljubljana, the head of the Institute of Microbiology and Immunology, Miroslav Petrovec, said that curfew is not popular in Slovenia, but that the movement of people at night should be reduced.

“We have a weekly average of 707 newly infected people, which is not good. We´re the most worried about the new strains of the virus,¨ added Petrovec.

The director of the Clinic for Infectious Diseases here in Zagreb, Prof Alemka Markotic, said that the appearance of mutated strains of the virus has indeed further complicated the situation.

"The British strain has taken over Europe, but it is entering a phase of slower spread now. The South African strain has not yet been detected in all countries, nor has the Brazilian one," explained Prof Alemka Markotic.

"A series of vaccines blocked by other countries did not arrive in Croatia"

The director of KB Dubrava, Ivica Luksic, said that the coronavirus pandemic brought a number of weaknesses up to the surface, but also a few good things. He praised the Ministry and the members of Croatia´s National Civil Protection Headquarters for their diligent work.

“Today, the organisation within hospitals is better, it is now much easier to adapt to the increase in the number of coronavirus patients. Today we´re more equipped and we have a lot of experience underour belts,¨ he said.

Prof Alemka Markotic commented on the situation with the AstraZeneca vaccine, which has faced many questions due to some reported side effects.

“It is common for side effects to occur after receiving a vaccination. What is known so far is that one death and one embolism which occured in Austria are not related to the vaccine. You have batches or a series in every production line, it is normal if there is some suspicion about one batch that you stop vaccinating with that batch,¨ she explained.

Prof Alemka Markotic also added that the series that was temporarily blocked by other countries does not exist in Croatia because it never arrived here.

The facilitator asked academician Hukic which vaccine she would prefer. "The best one is the whuch is available, at least to us in Bosnia and Herzegovina," said Hukic.

"They are trying to find new drugs, a lot of steps forward have been made. It will serve not only against the novel coronavirus but also against other diseases. We have good experiences with corticosteroids, as well as with plasma, which is now being given at an earlier stage,¨ said Prof Alemka Markotic when asked what drugs are used to treat serious coronavirus patients here in Croatia.

Hukic stated her view in that she is against the introduction of Covid passports. Petrovec disagreed, he advocates the introduction of such passports for vaccinated individuals. Prof Alemka Markotic said that the reality is that there will be certificates of vaccination and coronavirus testing, but that she believes that it will not be discriminatory.

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Wednesday, 24 February 2021

Croatian COVID-19 Vaccination Registration Website Launched!

February the 24th, 2021 - Many questions are flying around when it comes to the vaccination process here in Croatia. With many on the list and with things moving frustratingly slowly, there is a lot of frustration with what many feel should be a simple process. Do I ask my GP? Where do I sign up? Mass vaccinations are happening in Zagreb now, so how do I get in? To make things more simple, a Croatian COVID-19 vaccination website has been set up.

As Poslovni Dnevnik writes, this past Tuesday, a Croatian COVID-19 vaccination registration website was launched on a trial basis where citizens and legal residents can apply for their coronavirus vaccination. It is in operation from 06:00 to 21:00 and officially begins operating today. On Tuesday, applications could also be made from 18:00 to 21:00, and applications for vaccination made at that time will have been duly received.

The Croatian COVID-19 vaccination registration website has, as stated, now started its trial operation, through which those interested can apply for vaccination against the novel coronavirus.

As previously mentioned, the site was in running but in its test phase on Tuesday, but despite that, people have already managed to sign up and any application made on that day will have been logged. There is also an explanation on the page about who should be vaccinated, about those who have already had the virus and what they should do, and the necessary information that should be entered when making an application for vaccination.

An OIB or MBO (the number of the insured person from their health insurance card) and their date of birth are sufficient for registration. Those who don't have internet access to access the Croatian COVID-19 vaccination registration website for whatever reason are free to register for vaccination via the toll-free number: 0800 0011.

Please note: If you access the website and come to a screen stating that the official opening of the website is coming soon, just bookmark the page and keep checking back.

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