Saturday, 24 April 2021

Ministry Reassures All Who Sign Up For Vaccination Will Get Appointment

April 24, 2021 - The Health Ministry on Saturday said that the cijepise.zdravlje.hr platform for arranging COVID vaccination appointments had shown some deficiencies, which is why efforts are being made to remove them and all who have used this platform to sign up to get vaccinated will be given appointments.

The ministry underscores that a glitch that has led to arranging appointments for vaccination of younger citizens before some older ones are inoculated has been fixed.

The ministry admitted that some shortcomings of the platform had been detected. However, the ministry notes that some general practitioners have failed to fully cooperate in implementing this system and updating the data entered in the register for planned vaccinations, which has also caused obstacles for the smooth implementation of the vaccine rollout plan.

The ministry underscores that some county health authorities have made the local online vaccine booking system for themselves.

All that has made it more challenging for the platform to deliver on its expectations, the ministry said in a press release.

It recalls that Health Minister Vili Beroš has already dismissed speculations and insinuations about cronyistic relations with the companies or people involved in selecting this platform.

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

Saturday, 24 April 2021

Cijepise.hr Website Breakdown: Very Low Number of Registered Citizens Vaccinated

April 24, 2021 - Due to several errors on the Cijepise.hr website, county bureaus have given up calling citizens registered through the national platform.

The multi-million kunaa Ministry of Health platform Cijepise.zdravlje.hr, which was pompously put into operation in February and which saw tens of thousands of citizens apply for vaccination, has utterly failed. 

As Jutarnji List learned from the county institutes of public health, in most counties, no one was able to get vaccinated after registering on the platform, and those counties that tried to use it gave up because the system was unclear and full of errors, which created clutter and chaos on the ground.

At the largest mass vaccination point in the country, the Zagreb Fair, only citizens ordered by family doctors through the CEZIH ordering system were vaccinated this week. The Teaching Institute for Public Health "Dr. Andrija Štampar" says that they decided to do so after the experience from previous weeks when they tried to implement and report from the platform. Still, the response of those invited from the platform was extremely low - from 20 to a maximum of 50 percent, due to which their numerous deadlines remained unfilled.

There are probably more reasons for this. There is a shorter call time, the development of information about side effects with certain vaccines, and even technical challenges such as emails being classified as 'Promotions' for Google mail clients, they explain. They used to receive the registered call late in the evening with the notification that they have a vaccination date at 8 am, so they would see the email a few hours after their appointment had already passed.

After the arrival of Pfizer and the need to raise the reliability of those invited to a higher level, this week, Zagreb exclusively chose the family doctor channel for vaccinations. 

"This has successfully raised the capacity to about 4,500 citizens per day," they said.

They add that so far, a total of more than 30,000 people have been vaccinated at the Fair, of which about 7,000 (23%) through the platform. They also tried to use the Cijepise.hr platform in Varaždin. Still, as Marin Bosilj, the director of the Varaždin Institute, revealed, they experienced an incredible mess that they do not want to repeat.

"On the day of vaccination, they subsequently sent us people, without their full names, only initials. So we controlled the OIB at the checkpoints and slowed down the whole process. Also, it was not clearly indicated to the people that they had first just registered them as interested and that they would only be given an appointment later. That is why, when the checkpoint opened, everyone enrolled came. Chaos," he points out and adds that in such a confusion, only about 500 people ordered through the platform were vaccinated at two points in three terms. All the others, 3,900 of them vaccinated at checkpoints, were given an appointment through a family doctor.

"We have opened the office access to the national electronic platform. The institute opens an appointment, doctors, who are familiar with the technology, enroll in any other examination. The number of patients per doctor is limited so that those younger and more computer-savvy would not get more appointments than others with the fastest finger system. When the appointments are filled, we close the calendar, and further orders are not possible. All the data have already been entered, and it is enough to come to the checkpoint only with a confirmation," said the expert of the Institute of Information Technology Vedran Klarić.

"In Istria, we do not use the state platform, and we have not used it. We are still vaccinating the priority group - the chronically ill and those over 65 years of age. That is why vaccination through that platform is not a topic for us yet," says Ante Ivančić from the Istrian health center. For now, in the County of Istria, all those who want to be vaccinated are sent from their doctors.

The director of the Vukovar-Srijem County Public Health Institute, Dr. Kata Krešić, said that so far, they have not needed to use the platform at all.

"We didn't even have enough vaccines to use the platform. All vaccinations that have been performed so far have been in family medicine, and at the checkpoints, it was organized for people who were reported and referred by their family doctors," says Dr. Krešić.

Only 1,500 citizens of Karlovac County applied for vaccination through the Cijepise.zdravlje.hr platform, a rather small number of 22,450 people vaccinated so far, i.e., vaccines distributed. The director of the Karlovac County Public Health Institute, Branko Zoretić, emphasizes that a good part of that number has already been vaccinated because they are on the lists of their family doctor.

Jutarnji also asked the Ministry of Health for comments and data on several occasions. On Friday, we were told that the answer was "related to the topic of vaccinations and platforms in the work of professional services."

For more on coronavirus specific to Croatia, including travel, border, and quarantine rules, as well as the locations of vaccination points and testing centres up and down the country, make sure to bookmark our dedicated COVID-19 section.

Monday, 19 April 2021

Devastating Vaccination Figures in Croatia for Over 65 Age Group

April 19, 2021 - Croatia is already beginning its third phase of vaccination, but the vaccination figures in Croatia regarding the over 65 age group are hardly satisfactory. 

Jutarnji List reports that in the second phase of vaccination, which ended in most parts of the country, only 38.6 percent of people over the age of 65 were vaccinated. However, according to data provided by the Croatian Institute of Public Health, the vaccine was offered to everyone.

According to estimates, 853,784 people over the age of 65 live in Croatia, and at least one dose of the vaccine was received by 329,367, or 38.6 percent, according to the CNIPH. Only 6.6 percent of those over 65 received both doses of the vaccine, but they are expected to receive a second dose. These are data until April 12.

Thus, a few days before the end of the second phase of vaccination, as many as 61.4 percent of people over 65 did not receive the vaccine.

While CNIPH did not explain why, experts are convinced that most of the problem lies in the fact that vaccination candidates have massively refused to receive the AstraZeneca vaccine, which Croatia had the most of. 

In short, at the time we start the third phase of vaccination, which includes the general population and priority vaccinations of employees in certain sectors, such as tourism and education, Croatia's seniors are not vaccinated satisfactorily.

A bad image of this vaccine has been created in the public, which is why all HZJZ vaccination lines are overwhelmed by calls for rejections for AstraZeneca.

"People are ready to be vaccinated, but when they are told that they will get AstraZeneca, they give up; that is, they say that they will wait for another vaccine. Initially, after the approval of AstraZeneca, it was rejected only by the elderly because then it was questionable whether it affects people over 65. After the story with clots appeared, the vaccine is also rejected by the younger ones," said HZJZ unofficially. 

The Ministry of Health also confirmed a few days ago that the problem is with people refusing the AstraZenecina vaccine.

"Irrespective of when the application is registered on the cijepise.zdravlje.hr platform, senior citizens and patients with chronic diseases have priority, and invitations to young people and those without chronic diseases are sent only in case those from the priority groups refuse to fill the capacity of the mass vaccination point at the Zagreb Fair. This is the sole reason for getting an appointment at a mass vaccination point with individual citizens from the younger group concerning the priority group. Such a principle will be followed in the next calls for vaccinations at the checkpoint," said the relevant Ministry.

In the priority phase, which ended a long time ago, 52,449 health workers were vaccinated, or 71.4 percent of them, which means that almost every third health worker was not vaccinated.

"The highest vaccination coverage was achieved for people aged 80 and over, of whom more than 44 percent received the first or second dose," said the CNIPH.

The data show that confidence in the vaccine declines with age. Thus, the highest share of vaccinated is among those over 100 years of age: out of 142 of them living in Croatia, 84 or 59 percent were vaccinated. Half of our citizens aged 95 to 99, of whom there are 1,630, were vaccinated, while 48 percent of those aged 90 to 94 were vaccinated. The least vaccinated in the priority group are those aged 65 to 69, where only 73,979 or 28 percent of the total of 267,320 have been vaccinated so far. Confidence in the vaccine grows with age so that the next monitored age group of 70 to 74 has a vaccine share of 43 percent.

Prime Minister Andrej Plenković pointed out that the goal is to vaccinate 55 percent of the total adult population by July 1. Is this possible with such a response?

"Our goal is to vaccinate more than 50 or 55 percent of the adult population with the first dose by at least July 1, and with those that have recovered, we could talk about very significant protection of the population from COVID-19," said the Prime Minister.

But to reach that percentage, they would have to vaccinate 17,747 citizens a day. It is logistically feasible, given that Zagreb alone can vaccinate ten thousand people a day, but the question is whether there will be enough interested people. Only about 150,000 citizens are registered on the cijepise.zdravlje.hr platform, and the numbers are as follows: According to the latest CBS estimate, Croatia has slightly less than 3.4 million adult citizens (3,364,426), and 55 percent of that number is 1,850,434.

When the already vaccinated are taken away, it follows that 1,331,059 citizens should be immunized by July 1. Despite all the problems, it is positive that many additional doses of the Pfizer vaccine have been procured, which citizens are more inclined to get. According to the latest data, 1.8 million doses of the vaccine should arrive in Croatia by the end of June.

"Pfizer has increased the availability of vaccines for Croatia. From the fourth week of April, these doses will be significantly higher, or about 100 thousand doses; in May, Croatia will receive 175 thousand doses, and in June, 200 thousand doses per week. We will receive a total of 1.805 million doses by the end of June," said the director of the CNIPH, Krunoslav Capak.

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

Saturday, 17 April 2021

USKOK Investigating Cijepi.se Scandal, Says Jutarnji List

ZAGREB, 17 April 2021 - The anti-corruption office USKOK back in January this year asked to inspect contracts between a company owned by Vinko Kojundžić and the Health Ministry, Jutarnji List reports on Saturday, noting that a HRK 5.2 million deal was signed by Minister Vili Beroš and the companies Cuspis, IN2 and In-Con.

According to unofficial reports, anti-corruption investigators at the beginning of this year launched a preliminary probe into some of the contracts and deals signed by the Health Ministry and IN2 and Cuspis, whose founder and director Vinko Kojundžić designed the COVID-19 vaccination registration platform cijepise.zdravlje.hr where citizens frequently have problems when registering for vaccination.

The platform drew the interest of the Telegram news portal which on several occasions tried to obtain an answer from the ministry as to who had designed it but to no avail.

The portal eventually discovered the answer on its own, after which Cuspis director Kojundžić admitted that he was the author of the platform from which the companies IN2 and Ericsson Nikola Tesla distanced themselves on Friday after Minister Beroš earlier in the day said the two companies had worked on the platform as well.

Jutarnji List has learned that anti-corruption investigators have allegedly requested from the Health Ministry "complete documentation on six public procurement procedures in which the ministry was the client."

The daily says that Kojundžić was politically active in the 1990s in the Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) Youth and that he designed the HDZ's first website.

At one time he reportedly also worked in the Konzum retail chain and his name cropped up in media reports when anti-corruption investigators in 2009 raided the offices of the Croatian Health Insurance Institute (HZZO) over alleged suspicion concerning the work of its IT department.

For more about politics in Croatia, follow TCN's dedicated page.

Tuesday, 13 April 2021

Reporters One of Priority Groups for Vaccination

ZAGREB, 13 April, 2021 - The Culture and Media Ministry has suggested including reporters and media workers in priority groups for vaccination against COVID-19 due to the risk of infection being higher than for the rest of the population, the Croatian Journalists Association (HND) said on Tuesday.

According to a notification from the ministry, reporters can express interest in being put on the list of priority vaccinations.

The HND will be collecting data from interested reporters until midnight 14 April, the association said, noting that expression of interest will in no way affect interest in vaccination expressed previously with one's family doctor or via the cijepise.zdravlje.hr platform. Previous registration for vaccination should not be cancelled until the moment an invitation to vaccination arrives from the Croatian Public Health Institute, the HND said.

For more about vaccination in Croatia, follow TCN's dedicated page.

Tuesday, 13 April 2021

Johnson & Johnson Arrives in Croatia Wednesday, New Vaccination Plan in Works

April 13, 2021 - Johnson & Johnson arrives in Croatia tomorrow, and within a few days, an Action Plan will follow, which will define the order and manner of priority vaccination.

Slobodna Dalmacija reports that another coronavirus vaccine will arrive in Croatia on Wednesday. The Johnson & Johnson vaccine is expected in Zagreb and will be distributed throughout Croatia by public health education institutes (NZJZ).

This vaccine is similar to that of AstraZeneca, i.e., it is a standard vaccine that is not made based on mRNA technology, such as PfizerBiontech or Moderna. However, its advantage, compared to all previous vaccines, is that a person who is vaccinated with this vaccine should be vaccinated only once, meaning you don't need to go to the doctor twice to get two doses of the vaccine.

With Johnson & Johnson's arrival, which gives the vaccinated person around 70 percent protection, Croatia will have four vaccines in use for now. The next, fifth vaccine, which is eagerly awaited and could soon receive EMA approval in May this year, is the German vaccine Curevac, which is made on mRNA technology, like Pfizer and Moderna.

According to the announcements, a total of 747 thousand doses of various vaccines should arrive in Croatia by the end of June, with the help of which we would be ready for the tourist season.

The fact that an inter-ministerial meeting was held to discuss the continuation of vaccination of priority groups also speaks in the direction of vaccinating the working-age population as much as possible.

As soon as all elderly and chronically ill people are vaccinated, vaccination of other priority groups is planned. An interdepartmental meeting was held on this topic, where members of various departments proposed groups from their jurisdiction. Thus, the mentioned tourism workers, educators, sailors, professional drivers in road and air transport, police officers, soldiers, craftspeople, shop workers, and other professions are important to be vaccinated at this stage, wrote Vili Beroš, Croatian Minister of Health, in his message. 

An Action Plan will be drafted within a few days, which will define the order and manner of priority vaccination.

"I especially want to point out that we will be among the first in the major markets that will vaccinate their tourism workers, which is a clear message of the safety of our destination to tourists who intend to come to Croatia. It is important to note that citizens over the age of 65 and the chronically ill, who cannot or do not want to be vaccinated at the moment, will be able to be vaccinated whenever they decide to do so," Minister Beroš pointed out.

Given that the tourist season is around the corner, it would certainly be necessary to vaccinate those who work in the tourism sector, or all those who in any way come into contact with tourists as soon as possible. Therefore, before our tourist competitors, Croatia should start vaccinating tourist workers and give guarantees to foreign tour operators that foreign guests are coming to a safe destination.

Maja Bašić, a spokeswoman for HALMED, spoke about the latest with the Russian Sputnik V vaccine and whether we can expect it as the sixth vaccine in Croatia.

"HALMED is checking the documentation of the Sputnik V vaccine so that everything would be ready to launch intervention imports. At the same time, the EMA is conducting a process of evaluating the documentation for granting marketing authorization for this vaccine," said Bašić.

Finally, it is important to note that if the EMA does not approve the Sputnik V vaccine, Croatia will not be able to introduce it "on its own."

For more on coronavirus in Croatia, including travel, border and quarantine rules, as well as the locations of testing centers across the country, make sure to bookmark our dedicated section.

Saturday, 3 April 2021

Phase 3 Vaccination Plan in Croatia: The Doses and Details

April 3, 2021 - Could 100,000 doses be delivered each week? A look at the phase 3 vaccination plan in Croatia.

Jutarnji List reports that in the second half of April, Croatia should vaccinate everyone over the age of 65 with one dose of the coronavirus vaccine, 55 percent of the total adult population should be vaccinated by June 30, and 70 percent by the end of the summer. The third phase of mass vaccination at the Zagreb Fair should finally start from mid-April, which will include all those who have registered on the cijepise.zdravlje.hr platform, according to the order of applications.

In the week when we recorded a significant increase in the number of new cases, good news arrived on Thursday night from Brussels. It was agreed that an additional 747,000 doses of Pfizer vaccine would be delivered to Croatia by the end of June. This month, Croatia should get 600,000 doses from different manufacturers, which is more than in the first three months of this year in total, which finally allows us to start mass vaccination.

Already this week, more than 120,000 doses of vaccine arrived. Zagreb received 30,000 doses of AstraZeneca on Friday, and on Wednesday, says the "Štampar" director, Zvonimir Šostar.

"We are going to finish the second phase, and then from April 15, we will enter the third phase where we will invite all Zagreb citizens registered on the cijepise.zdravlje.hr platform. Citizens will get the exact dates, and as they applied, we will call them. We ask everyone to come at the right time, and not earlier so as not to create crowds," says Šostar and adds that those who reported to their doctors will also be vaccinated because they had to register them on the platform.

"We are now in the middle of the second phase of vaccination in the whole country, but there are several people from that phase who do not want to be vaccinated, so I believe that the third phase could start on April 15 in Zagreb. We will determine the economic priorities for vaccination, and we will send all the surplus to the points for mass vaccination," says the director of the Croatian Institute of Public Health, Krunoslav Capak

Tourism Minister Nikolina Brnjac said on Friday that she expects tourism workers to begin vaccinations in May. With these additional doses of Pfizer, Croatia has now exceeded the number of 9 million ordered doses. With that, Croatia will be below the EU average by June 30 because the Union will be at 65 percent, and Croatia at 55 percent of vaccinations. This ratio would have been much worse if these additional doses had not been agreed upon because only 90,000 doses would have arrived in Croatia in the second quarter under the proportional "pro-rata" system. Croatia is now at 11.4 percent of adults vaccinated with a single dose, while the EU average is 13.9 percent.

It is unknown what amounts will arrive per week from these additional doses, but more than 50,000 doses can be expected each week until the end of June. Also, Croatia should receive 50,000 to 70,000 doses ordered earlier, which means that Croatia could have more than 100,000 doses per week.

Negotiations over these additional doses, sources say, have been quite difficult. Croatia thought that a larger amount of vaccines should be given to those countries with below-average vaccination coverage because they bet on AstraZeneca, which delivered only 30 percent of the agreed doses to the EU and only 17 percent to Croatia. In addition to Croatia, the winners of this agreement are Bulgaria, which has the lowest vaccination coverage, Latvia, Estonia, and Slovakia, while the biggest losers are the Czechs. Namely, an agreement was reached between 24 member states, and Austria, the Czech Republic, and Slovenia did not join in because they demanded a larger amount of doses for themselves. However, all three countries will be above the EU average in July.

Other countries did not agree to this, and Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz and his colleagues from Slovenia and the Czech Republic remained isolated. It was not well received that Kurz was photographed with the Russian ambassador at the time when solidarity was being discussed, and it is significant that German Chancellor Angela Merkel did not even want to receive him in Berlin two weeks ago. Eventually, 19 states waived part of their total of 10 million doses arriving in the second quarter instead of the fourth.

Austria and Slovenia got something more than giving up part of their pro-rata doses but will not get anything in the fourth quarter. However, the Czech Republic, which is the hardest-hit country in the EU, received even less because it did not agree. For this principle that, in addition to pro-rata, vaccination is also considered, given the problems with AstraZeneca, Croatia advocated for an expert body of the Council, the so-called Steering Board. However, no agreement could be reached because the Scandinavian countries and Malta opposed this model.

After that, the European Council was held, after which some countries changed their position. Then, the conclusion was to find a solution in the "spirit of solidarity" for the distribution of these doses and to move the negotiations to the Permanent Representatives Committee (ambassadors). The Portuguese Presidency has put on the table a proposal to distribute 70 percent of the doses to everyone and 30 percent to go to these five states. And that was eventually accepted.

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

For the latest travel updates and COVID-19 news from Croatia, CLICK HERE.

Wednesday, 31 March 2021

All Vaccines Allowed in Croatia? Latest Developments for Vaccinated Travelers

March 31, 2021 - A look at the vaccines allowed in Croatia and the latest developments for vaccinated travelers wanting to cross the Croatian border.

After Greece made a decision on vaccinated travelers, all travelers who have been vaccinated with two doses, regardless of whether it has been approved by the European Medicines Agency (EMA), will be able to cross the Croatian border tomorrow, Jutarnji List unofficially finds out.

Anyone with a vaccination certificate will be able to cross the border without presenting a negative PCR test, regardless of whether they have received AstraZeneca, Pfizer, Moderna, or, for example, Sputnik or the Chinese vaccine which are not approved for use in the EU.

However, Jutarnji writes that the decision will be subject to change if the European Union is set differently according to vaccines that are not approved in Europe. Also, the Decision on Borders, which will be presented today by the National Headquarters, will include the possibility of crossing the border with the presentation of a rapid antigen test, but only one that has been validated and approved by the EMA. Persons who have contracted the coronavirus within a maximum of six months, and if they have a negative PCR test, not older than 48 hours, will also cross the border without quarantine. Children under the age of seven can still cross the border without restrictions.

The news comes just a day or two after the head of the Croatian National Public Health Institute, Krunoslav Capak, told Croats that he did not advise them to go to Serbia for vaccinations, among other things, because vaccines not approved by the EMA are being used in Serbia. Still, it seems that in the Croatian case, the advantage that vaccines have for the economy, primarily tourism, has prevailed.

Before Croatia, the decision to release people vaccinated with Sputnik and Chinese vaccines across the borders was announced by our competitor Greece, which, as the media reported so far, agreed to accept the vaccination certificate with these two types of preparations with Serbia. Greece will generally begin to recognize certificates to all their holders, all in pledge to save the tourist season that left Greece empty-handed last year.

As Ivan Pukšar, a tourism consultant and owner of Coned turizam, explained to Jutarnji List, it is good for Croatia to go in the direction of facilitating border crossings and allowing people who have been vaccinated with both Chinese and Russian vaccines to enable as many tourists as possible.

This decision is important to us, among other things, because of the Hungarian market, which has already enabled its citizens to be vaccinated with Russian and Chinese vaccines, so it would be desirable for these tourists to spend the summer on the Adriatic without the need to go to quarantine or perform testing, said Pukšar, adding that he is not surprised by the great engagement of Greece in this regard, given that they work extremely actively on the promotion and image of their country.

"There are several reasons for this, and the first is certainly the fact that Greece is highly dependent on tourism, and it is also an air destination that, along with domestic guests and visitors from ships, cannot compensate for tourist traffic, so it is imperative to attract every possible guest. Third, Greece is dependent on British tourists who this year threaten not to travel before the end of July, which is why Greek tourism is in a much worse position than Croatian," Pukšar believes.

Greek Tourism Minister Haris Theoharis and Serbian Minister Tatjana Matic reached an agreement on Monday, and it will take effect on May 14. Unfortunately, Jutarnji did not receive information from the Greek Ministry of Tourism of whether this decision will be applied to citizens of other countries. However, the unofficial information Jutarnji has about Croatia says that today, the public will be presented with new conditions for entering Croatia, which will make it as easy as possible for foreign visitors to visit our country.

Formally, there are no obstacles to such a decision that would prevent EU member states from making their own decisions on recognizing certificates for Chinese and Russian vaccines, as recently announced by European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen when, presenting the Covid-passport project, she noted that EU members will have to cross the borders with a digital - green certificate, but that this decision can be extended to other vaccines. 

Neighboring Slovenia was the first country in the region to allow vaccinated people to cross the border in general. Still, this decision currently applies only to vaccines registered in the EU. The Slovenian border rules say that entry is possible for everyone who has been vaccinated with the second dose of Astra Zeneca 21 days before traveling, or seven days with Pfizer and 14 days with Moderna.

For the latest travel updates and COVID-19 news from Croatia, CLICK HERE.

Saturday, 27 March 2021

Details of EU Summit Negotiations: At Least Another 500,000 Pfizer Doses in Croatia?

March 27, 2021 - Will there be at least another 500,000 Pfizer doses in Croatia? If the EU Summit negotiations successful, Croatia could vaccinate more than half of the adult population with a single dose of vaccine by June 30, 2021. 

Jutarnji List reports that if the negotiations of the permanent representatives of the EU member states in COREPER are successful, Croatia could vaccinate just over half of the adult population with one COVID-19 vaccine dose by June 30, which would bring it closer to the EU average.

This is the essence of the European Council meeting held on Thursday, at which Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenković advocated that 10 million doses of Pfizer vaccine, which will arrive in the second quarter of this year, be distributed so that more doses are given to those members who are being the EU vaccination average because they were left without large quantities of vaccines ordered from AstraZeneca.

Croatia has missed a lot because only 17 percent of the promised AstraZeneca doses arrived in Croatia. Thus, the country is currently third in the EU in terms of the number of vaccinated citizens with one dose, followed by Latvia and Bulgaria. No agreement was reached at the European Council. Still, the joint statement emphasized that the doses would be distributed according to the principle of European solidarity, which would have to be agreed upon by the political body. That fact alone gives us hope that Croatia could do well.

Namely, out of 100 million doses planned for delivery in the fourth quarter, Pfizer will deliver 10 million doses in the second quarter. They will now negotiate what percentage will go to the countries that lag behind the most and how much to all others. 

Among the numerous proposals was that all 10 million doses go to the four, five, or six most severely deprived countries, including Croatia, but this could not pass because each country wants certain doses for itself. It was mentioned that Croatia could receive as many as 1.4 million doses by the end of June, but that, Prime Minister Plenković explained yesterday, was just one of the proposals.

While the amount of doses Croatia is now counting on is still unclear, given that it is a matter of negotiations, we know that a little more than half a million Pfizer doses would bring Croatia closer to the average by the end of June. With this dynamic, Croatia could have more than half of the adult population vaccinated.

Some countries have demanded that the principle continue, with these 10 million doses, to be exclusively proportional, i.e., concerning the number of inhabitants, but this would be unfavorable for Croatia because it would receive only 90,000 doses June 30, which would still lag behind the EU average.

As things stand now, Croatia will get far more than that; the goal is more than half a million to make up for the loss with others.

According to these calculations, Bulgaria should get the most, given the population and the fact that it is at the bottom of the EU in terms of vaccination.

"The conclusion on that topic was to find an agreement on the ratio of distributing those 10 million doses in the spirit of solidarity, which means that those who have less will get more," said Plenković yesterday and later explained that EU leaders support compensating Croatia for the lack of vaccines. 

The good news from the meeting is that the leaders agreed to distribute these doses according to the principle of solidarity. Still, the not-so-good news is that the rest of the vaccine will be distributed as before, according to the "pro-rata" principle. However, if the first goal is achieved, then further distribution according to the principle of proportionality is less unfavorable for Croatia.

These are the two messages from the summit that ended on Thursday before midnight. Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz's idea to "distribute the vaccine more fairly" between member states has only been understood when it comes to an additional 10 million doses without Austria, which, according to others, has not been missed.

Kurz was not only not supported by German Chancellor Angela Merkel but also by Mark Rutte from the Netherlands. Austria will not be able to count on abandoning the principle of dividing the vaccine "pro-rata" according to the number of inhabitants and according to the quantity ordered by the states from individual producers. They won’t be able to count on most of these 10 million doses either.

However, Croatia, Bulgaria, Latvia, and the Czech Republic can benefit from this. When Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte says he is ready to agree to give more to Croatia, that is important news. Rutte is a classic representative of the school that in diplomacy, it is necessary to go cold-headed but also cold-hearted. So, if the principle of solidarity is agreed upon, which means that some need to give more for others to get more, the factual situation should also be taken into account. And the fact is that Austria, unlike Croatia and Bulgaria, does not lag far behind others in vaccination. Moreover, Austria is even above the EU average.

According to the plan presented by Ursula von der Leyen at the summit, 360 million doses will be delivered in the second quarter. But of that, just 70 million AstraZeneca, 200 million Pfizer doses, 35 million Moderna doses, and 55 million Johnson & Johnson.

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

Friday, 26 March 2021

PM Andrej Plenković: Croatia Received Only 17% of Vaccine Doses Ordered From AstraZeneca

ZAGREB, 26 March, 2021 - Croatia has received only 17% of coronavirus vaccine doses ordered from AstraZeneca, Prime Minister Andrej Plenković told a press conference on Friday.

The European Union has ordered 120 million doses of the vaccine from AstraZeneca and has received only 30 million, which is why Croatia lacks the vaccine, Plenković said.

Permanent representatives to the European Union have been tasked with arranging the distribution of 10 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine as soon as possible, in a spirit of solidarity, the prime minister said, reporting on the results of the EU summit held on Thursday.

About 405 million people live in countries that do not have a problem with vaccines and about 40 million in countries that have not received the amounts of vaccines ordered, so these 10 million doses would resolve the problem for the countries that are not receiving vaccines, while the others would not feel they missed something, he added.

In a joint statement on Thursday, EU leaders asked the ambassadors to the EU to resolve the problem of distribution of 10 million doses of the vaccine that BioNTech/Pfizer will deliver in the second quarter of the year instead of the second half.

"That means that those who have less will get more," Plenković said, adding that the aim was to compensate the countries that have ordered the most vaccine from AstraZeneca and less from other manufacturers.

About six or seven countries should be compensated, including Croatia, which would help achieve even vaccine coverage within the EU, the Croatian PM said.

Plenković denied claims that Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz used strong language at the meeting. Kurz was the first EU leader to draw attention to the uneven distribution of vaccines among the EU member states.

Plenković denied the speculation that the agreement would have been reached already yesterday had it not been for the Austrian chancellor's statement. "No, that was not possible, technically. Had we been physically present in Brussels - maybe, there would have been breaks and we would have explained things to one another."

"Anyway, this will be sorted. Pfizer will fill in the gap created by AstraZeneca's failure to meet its obligations," the PM said, adding that Bulgaria should get the most doses.

With the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine doses as compensation, Croatia hopes to vaccinate 50% of its population by 30 June, which would put it on a level with the EU.

For more about vaccinations in Croatia, follow TCN's dedicated page.

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