Friday, 26 March 2021

70% of Tourism Workers in Croatia Awaiting Vaccination

March 26, 2021 - A large percentage of tourism workers in Croatia are awaiting vaccination in hopes they can have a safer season this year. 

Slobodna Dalmacija reports that as many as 70 percent of respondents from the tourism sector expressed interest in vaccinations, according to a survey conducted by the Croatian Chamber of Commerce and the Croatian Tourism Association.

The Ministry of Tourism and Sports initiated the collection of employees' personal data through professional associations to implement the Vaccination Program, which would put the tourism sector in the priority group.

Priority within it is determined following epidemiological risks, with the advantage not only for employees who have greater contact with guests, but also, for example, those who, due to the nature of work, are unable to provide adequate social distance, especially indoors, such as in the kitchen.

Tourism workers in Croatia interested in vaccination were divided into two groups. The first includes operational staff (reception, waiters, household, drivers, guides, skippers, etc.) and those who are in direct contact with them daily. Priority number two refers to "administrative staff" and employees working at the dislocated location, which are not in daily contact with persons from the first group.

"The good news is that we are put on a priority list. All skippers will be vaccinated; there is no discussion. This is of vital interest to us, especially if clients would ask for it or if one of us is a member of a yacht crew," says Vicko Ozretić, president of the Croatian Skippers Association and members of the crew of yachts "Crosca."

The association has not yet received information on when the vaccination will begin, and they hope it will be as soon as possible. However, due to the current epidemiological situation across Europe and strict measures, they have little hope they'll start work soon.

All the figures, Ozretić says without hesitation, have dropped significantly.

"We believe in the peak season; we hope it will be good. As we have a pretty good pre-season and post-season in nautical tourism, we will be the first to feel the loss and lack of this pre-season because charters usually start slowly for Easter, and start working in May. It's about that now. Few of us will work this Easter, and maybe no one," says Ozretić. The first reservations are recorded only in June, but a new problem has arisen, further complicating business in nautical tourism.

"These are vouchers from last season. A part of these clients started asking for a refund, where charterers expect a big blow. This is one of the huge problems we are currently solving. It is easy to have one or two cancellations, but twenty or thirty are hard to bear," explains Ozretić.

The problem with voucher cancellations has escalated currently, as cases rise across Europe due to the rapid spread of new coronavirus strains.

Are travelers giving up even in the postseason?

"September is still under question; for now, what is booked is standing, but these are more or less bookings from last year. September is a ways away; it is no longer booked as in the period before the pandemic. No one can know anything more in advance. Everything is uncertain," concludes Vicko Ozretić.

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

Wednesday, 24 March 2021

Two Opposition MPs Accuse Gov't of Vaccination Delays

ZAGREB, 24 March (Hina) - Andreja Marić of the Social Democratic Party (SDP) and Rada Borić of the New Left party on Wednesday critcised the Croatian government as well as the European Commission over procrastination in administering COVID-19 vaccines.

Addressing the national parliament, Andreja Marić said that the Croatian government failed this test.

Until three days ago, a mere 470,000 doses of all vaccine producers were delivered to Croatia, which is only 14 doses per 100 inhabitants, Marić said.

To date, 358,000 doses have been administered, and 8.9% of citizens have received one shot so far of the two-dose vaccine and 2.2% have been inoculated with both doses. Only Bulgaria and Latvia have fared worse than Croatia in the European Union, she said.

Marić insists that delays in coronavirus vaccine deliveries are not the result of the unjust distribution inside the European Union but a consequence of Croatia's wrong decision to rely on AstraZeneca vaccines at the beginning.

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

Tuesday, 23 March 2021

Croatia Expects Digital Green Certificates to be Ready by June, Says official

ZAGREB, 23 March, 2021 - Croatia expects a law to be adopted and technical preparations to be completed by June to enable the introduction of a digital green certificate proving that its holder has been vaccinated against COVID-19, has recovered from it, or has tested negative, an official said on Tuesday.

Andreja Metelko-Zgombić, the State Secretary for Europe, today took part in an informal conference of European affairs ministers, at which she stressed the importance of ensuring a stable, predictable and faster delivery of vaccines so that the common EU goal of inoculating 70% of the EU population by summer could be achieved.

She stressed that member-states should be equal in vaccine distribution, and that it was necessary to have a balanced approach to vaccine distribution as some countries currently have a lower vaccination rate due to delays in vaccine delivery, a statement said.

Metelko-Zgombić said that Croatia welcomed the European Commission's proposal for the introduction of digital green certificates that would facilitate free and safe travel within the EU.

She said that Zagreb "expects the adoption of the relevant legislative proposal and completion of technical preparations according to plan, by June, so that certificates could start to be used as soon as possible."

PM says Pfizer vaccine delivery to be stepped up

Prime Minister Andrej Plenković said today that work was underway on transferring the delivery of some of the vaccine supplies from the fourth to the second quarter so that the dynamic of vaccination could be stepped up before summer and that the vaccine in question was expected to be the Pfizer vaccine.

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

Monday, 22 March 2021

311,448 Croatians Vaccinated, 79,209 With Both Doses

ZAGREB, 22 March, 2021 - By Sunday, 390,657 doses of vaccine had been used with a total of 311,448 people vaccinated, including 232,239 of those who received one dose of vaccine and 79,209 who received both doses, Croatia's  COVID-19 crisis management team reported on Monday.

Medical regulator HALMED has so far received 1,896 reports of suspected side effects of vaccines against COVID-19, of which 1,064 for Pfizer, 108 for Moderna and 722 for AstraZeneca. In two cases it was not clear which vaccine caused side effects. 

The HZJZ institute head, Krunoslav Capak, said that the vaccination process was continuing according to plan, adding that the first third of the second phase of vaccination, covering persons older than 65 years and chronic patients, had been completed. He said that younger people would be prioritised after the completion of the second phase. 

He recalled that Croatia had so far ordered 8.7 million doses of vaccine from different manufacturers, adding that greater deliveries were expected in the second quarter of the year.

Average age of infected people down from 49.9 to 42.5 years

The average age of infected people has decreased from 49.9 to 42.5 years, Capak said.

The director of Zagreb's Hospital for Infectious Diseases, Alemka Markotić, said that the number of hospitalisations was increasing in Zagreb and Split, and that most of those hospitalised were aged between 50 and 60 years.

Asked by the press about the possibility of reinfection with COVID-19, Markotić cited a Danish study published in The Lancet journal showing that the protection against reinfection was about 79%.

However, people older than 65 were only about 47% protected on average. The conclusion is that people older than 65 years should be revaccinated even if they have recovered from COVID-19 because the risk of their reinfection is high. "People older than 65 are definitely more at risk," Markotić said.

Capak said that there were reports of several cases of reinfection in Croatia, but that their symptoms were mild.

Responding to a question about COVID passports for people who were vaccinated with the Chinese or Russian vaccine, the head of the national response team, Interior Minister Davor Božinović, said that talks had only just begun on issuing interoperable certificates at EU level to facilitate travel and that the situation in this regard would be clearer later this month.

"Some of the EU countries have taken the view that such certificates should be issued only for vaccines approved by the European Medicines Agency. Croatia is not in that group of countries, but talks on this are still ongoing," Božinović said.

If the purpose of such certificates is to facilitate travel for those who have been tested, vaccinated or who have recovered from COVID-19, Božinović hopes that this will not put too tight restrictions on the tourism sector because most EU countries started by vaccinating elderly people, who are in a more advantageous position that young people as far as travel is concerned.

This issue should be dealt with by early June, but that does not mean that countries like Croatia will not do all they can to alleviate the situation in the tourism sector by then, Božinović said.

As for demands by some of the counties in Croatia for stricter measures, Božinović said that it was yet to be seen what local and county response teams would decide this week. He ruled out the possibility of passes being introduced for inter-regional travel in Croatia for the Easter holidays. He said that the aim was to contain the epidemic in the counties with higher incidence rates, adding that steps had already been taken to inspect compliance with the measures in place.

Friday, 19 March 2021

Croatia Establishes Contact with Chinese COVID-19 Vaccine Manufacturers

ZAGREB, 19 March, 2021 - Health Minister Vili Beroš said on Thursday that Croatia had contacted two Chinese COVID-19 vaccine manufacturers and that talks were at at an initial stage, while Prime Minister Andrej Plenković said that the situation with AstraZeneca's vaccine proved that caution was important.

"We have established contact with manufacturers of the Chinese vaccine, or more precisely, with manufacturers of two types of Chinese vaccine. We have been given some preliminary information and talks will continue," Beroš told a press conference after a cabinet meeting.

He said that all important aspects of the vaccines needed to be discussed, such as safety, efficiency and quality.

Plenković said that the situation with AstraZeneca "is more than clear proof of how one needs to be cautious when placing a vaccine on the market."

"We are now talking about the credibility of a vaccine that has passed clearance and filters in America, the United Kingdom and the European Union. What would we do with vaccines that have none of these credentials? We have to take that into account," the prime minister warned.

Easter passes not discussed

As regards the deterioration in the epidemiological situation and possible passes for Easter, Plenković said that no one talked about such passes and that they were not an option.

He said that Croatia had now ordered more vaccine from Pfizer than from AstraZeneca, but added that at this point no one knew at what rate vaccines would be distributed from 1 May onward. "If a negative scenario happens with AstraZeneca, we are already in the process of ordering more vaccine from Pfizer to offset that."

He said he was confident that progress would be made on a corrective mechanism for vaccine distribution because "people understand that it is not countries that are responsible for this situation."

Asked if he was satisfied with how the EU handled vaccine procurement, Plenković said there was no doubt that the contracts could have been better written in terms of the pace of vaccine delivery. As for people's scepticism about the safety of vaccines, he said it was also important what the media said about them.

"We need to respect authorities on this matter, and our authorities are the World Health Organisation, the European Medicines Agency and the Croatian Agency for Medicines and Medicinal Devices. These are regulators. If a vast majority of professionals from a large number of countries think that this is all right, then we should use that for guidance. That's the most logical and best approach we can take," the prime minister said.

Additional encouragement to regional approach

The head of the national coronavirus response team, Interior Minister Davor Božinović, said that the team would unveil guidelines for the Adriatic counties on Friday as an additional encouragement to the county response teams because the incidence rate differed from county to county.

"We do not think it is time for horizontal measures, especially not in those counties, and there are more of them in the north of the country, where the epidemiological situation is good," Božinović said.

He noted that county response teams had been invited from the outset to propose tighter restrictions because their epidemiologists and professionals on the ground know where a coronavirus hotspot has emerged and what has caused it.

"This regional approach is not just an encouragement, but also a preparation for what is and what will become an integral part of the EU policy for the tourist season," Božinović said, calling for increased inspections of compliance with the restrictions in place and for self-discipline.

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

Tuesday, 16 March 2021

PM Andrej Plenković: "Croatia Continues to Administer AstraZeneca"

ZAGREB, 16 March, 2021 - Prime Minister Andrej Plenković said on Tuesday that Croatia would continue to administer the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine despite the fact that some 20 countries have suspended vaccination due to blood clotting in some patients.

Although more and more countries are suspending the use of AstraZeneca, Croatia will wait for the opinion of the European Medicines Agency (EMA).

"The stand of professionals on this matter is that the benefits of vaccination outweigh any risks known to them at the moment," Plenković told the press in Daruvar. "None of them has pointed to us any risks which would lead to the conclusion that vaccination should stop."

Today Plenković took part in an online meeting with prime ministers Sebastian Kurz of Austria, Janez Janša of Slovenia, Boyko Borissov of Bulgaria, Andrej Babiš of the Czech Republic, and Arturs Karinš of Latvia.

The six EU member states will demand a corrective mechanism for vaccine distribution, Plenković said afterwards. "We agreed to jointly appeal for the creation of a corrective mechanism."

Thereby, he added, they wish to "compensate for the delay some countries have experienced due to the slower distribution of the AstraZeneca vaccine."

EMA will meet on Thursday to discuss the information gathered and decide if said vaccine has contributed to thromboembolism in people who have received it.

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

 

Tuesday, 16 March 2021

Koprivnica-Križevci Crisis Management Team Suspends Vaccination With AstraZeneca Vaccine

ZAGREB, 16 March, 2021 - The Koprivnica-Križevci County's COVID-19 crisis management team on Tuesday decided to suspend mass vaccination with AstraZeneca shots against COVID-19, which was set for Wednesday, 17 March, until the European Medicines Agency (EMA) decides on the matter at its meeting on 18 March.

The mass inoculation was to have been held in a hall in Sveti Petar Orehovec for the residents of that town as well as for residents of Gornja Reka and Kalnik.

However, in the meantime it has been decided to wait for the EMA's decision.

To date, 6,363 residents of this county in north Croatia have been inoculated against coronavirus with Pfizer, Moderna and AstraZeneca vaccines, and 1,961 have received both doses of the two-dose vaccine. There have been no reports of any serious side-effects.

The people who get vaccinated with vaccines registered in Croatia and the EU will have protection from getting seriously sick, which could eventually result in death, the team said.

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

Monday, 15 March 2021

Croatian Agency for Medicinal Products and Devices Inspecting Documentation on Russian Vaccine

ZAGREB, 15 March, 2021 - The Croatian Agency for Medicinal Products and Medical Devices (HALMED) said on Monday that a preliminary inspection of documentation on the Russian Sputnik V COVID-19 vaccine was underway but that for the time being there would be no emergency imports of the vaccine.

HALMED today received documentation from the Health Ministry on the Russian vaccine and a team of ten HALMED experts in individual areas are conducting a preliminary inspection of the documentation to determine if the delivered documents comply with what had been requested.

The agency said that so far there had been no requests for emergency imports of the Russian vaccine and that there would not be any procedures of that kind for the time being.

HALMED will thoroughly inspect the documents forwarded by the Health Ministry and if necessary, request additional documents from the producer to ensure readiness for emergency imports should the need for them arise, the agency said.

The Russian vaccine is currently also being evaluated by the European Medicines Agency.

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

Friday, 12 March 2021

30% of Croats Refused AstraZeneca Vaccination on Friday?

March 12, 2021 - Dr. Nataša Ban Toskić revealed that 30% of Croats refused AstraZeneca vaccination on Friday.

Index.hr reports that after ten countries announced in the last two days that they are temporarily suspendeding the AstraZeneca vaccination, several people in Croatia refused to be vaccinated with the same vaccine. 

"Approximately 30 percent of people in the whole of Croatia, as I heard from colleagues from all over the country, today refused to come to the scheduled appointment for a vaccination with AstraZeneca. What I heard from colleagues and what I saw in my office is that people were very scared of it. Some of the patients scheduled for today canceled their vaccination, and those we offered it to after they canceled also refused to be vaccinated with AstraZeneca," said Dr. Nataša Ban Toskić, President of the Coordination of Croatian Family Medicine, for Index.

She states that even before this temporary vaccination suspension in other countries, patients had many questions about AstraZeneca, but that they were still vaccinated in the end.

"They had doubts, but they would still come. Today they refused en masse. There is a difficult situation in practice. Normally, people are confused and scared; our umbrella institutions should better communicate the AstraZeneca vaccine to the public and patients. I am thinking of HALMED, HZJZ, the Ministry of Health, and HZZO.

These institutions should publish concrete information on the situation with this vaccine in several media and several times," explained Dr. Ban Toskić.

He states that family doctors have been put in a rather awkward position.

"We don't have the information of which vaccine we will get, when and in what quantity it will arrive, and that puts us in a rather awkward position because we are on the first line of communication with patients. There is a danger that we are the only ones to bear the consequences of angry patients' lawsuits because we as vaccinators are the only responsible person if something happens to patients. At the same time, we do not influence which vaccine we get. We must adhere to official guidelines; we cannot now refuse to be vaccinated with AstraZeneca based on other countries' decisions.

We are in a problematic situation because if we do not vaccinate patients with the vaccine we received, then we are guilty, and if we vaccinate them, we can be guilty again. It would be extremely fair to the patients and us to intensively inform the public about the new situation with AstraZeneca," believes Dr. Ban Toskić.

He also states that the problem is that in most counties, there are no mobile vaccination teams for immobile and immobile patients.

They are especially concerned, he says, with the information that doctors will have to go to homes on their own and vaccinate patients.

"This is out of the question in these circumstances. There is no chance that the vaccinator comes alone and risks an unfavorable outcome. We need to have teams equipped in case of an allergic reaction to provide first aid to the patient immediately. 

Also, it is imperative to follow the rules of cold transport and transfer the vaccine in the refrigerator. This can only be done by a mobile team, not by an individual going with their purse on public transport or in their car without a refrigerator. And what if an adverse event occurs then, then accuse the doctor of not adequately transporting the vaccine? There are a lot of problems here. Honestly, it is unbelievable that to date, no mobile teams have been established in all cities and counties. Vaccination has been going on for three months now," Dr. Ban Toskić told Index.

Dr. Tanja Pekez said that she would see how the vaccination situation would develop next week, but that so far, everything was going well in her office.

"So far, it's been good, considering that the nurse and I have put in a lot of time and effort. For the first 42 patients, the nurse and I spent 8 hours determining who would be called. We called them all, and we referred calls to reserve patients because some of those invited canceled, then the vaccination started. As for the further situation with the vaccination, no one can know how things will go because everything has become a matter of politics. Britain picked up a huge amount of vaccines, then the explosion of a vaccine factory in India. Then there is the issue of Russian and possibly Chinese vaccines entering the European market. So, the predictions about vaccination are more in the domain of politics, and that should have been predicted by politicians, not only in Croatia but in the whole EU, and coordinated," Dr. Pekez told Index. 

She also states that patients became more interested in vaccination after the media published information about who got vaccinated. Still, she does not know how things will turn out after the latest events in the EU.

"In the end, I would like to add that because of the mental health of young people and the middle generation, we should have vaccinated them first so that we would have more freedom of movement. And we should finally start sanctioning inappropriate behavior," she added.

Recall, nine European countries and Thailand have suspended AstraZeneca vaccination because there have been several cases of blood clotting problems after vaccination and two deaths in Italy and one each in Denmark and Austria.

Denmark, Norway, and Iceland have temporarily suspended AstraZeneca vaccination, while Italy and Austria have stopped using certain vaccine batches as a precaution. Suspensions in Italy and Austria include different series of vaccines - in Austria, it is the ABV5300 series, and in Italy, the ABV2856. Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, and Luxembourg have suspended the use of the series that Austria has also suspended. Thailand has also announced that it is suspending AstraZeneca vaccination.

At a press conference on Friday, Krunoslav Capak, head of the CNIPH, commented on the situation with AstraZeneca.

"As you know, Austria, followed by several EU countries, has decided to suspend vaccination with AstraZeneca temporarily. Sixteen EU countries have received a vaccine of the same series as Austria. Their decision is a precaution due to thromboembolic events. If they are found not to be related to vaccination, vaccination will continue. As for Croatia, we did not get that series, but we are vaccinating with another series. We did not have groupings of thromboembolic events. So we decided to continue vaccinating with AstraZeneca. In Croatia, the incidence of thromboembolic events is 61 per 100,000; there are slightly more than one per week with a fatal outcome. They are happening in Croatia as well," Capak said.

Alemka Markotić said that it would be imperative for Croatia to preserve the Institute of Immunology and get involved in vaccine production.

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

Tuesday, 9 March 2021

COVID-19 Vaccination Certificates in Croatia: How Will They Look?

March 9, 2021 - Krunoslav Capak explains that the look of COVID-19 vaccination certificates in Croatia and the EU has been defined, though they are currently only used for medical purposes and not for crossing the border. 

Jutarnji List reports that the appearance of EU COVID-19 vaccination certificates has been defined.

As Krunoslav Capak, head of the Croatian Institute of Public Health and a member of the National Civil Protection Headquarters, explained to Jutarnji list, the certificate must contain the name of the vaccinated person, the country they come from, the name of the vaccine used, the date of vaccination, the serial number of the vaccine and a bar at which the data can be read.

"The appearance of vaccination certificates has been defined, but for now, they are used only for medical purposes and not to cross the border. The use of certificates for crossing the border is now intensively discussed. The time will surely come when the EU will make a decision. However, there are still a lot of questions and controversies," said Capak, adding that no EU country has made a decision on crossing the border based on vaccination, but there are bilateral agreements.

"We also have some bilateral talks about recognizing vaccination certificates mutually," Capak added.

He further explained that there are still no visuals but an agreement at the EU level on the certificate's content.

"An agreement has been reached on the content of the certificate. It should contain the name and surname of the person, the vaccine that was used, the date of vaccination, and the serial number of the vaccine," Capak explained.

The state should also be listed. Given that it will be a smart solution, Capak says it will take up to three months for it to work. Namely, the EU is still discussing whether vaccinated citizens will receive smart cards or have a code that can be read on a mobile phone.

"It seems to me that the most probable variant is with a QR code, but as we are talking about a large number of people from all over the EU, it is clear that it is a big job for data collection, but also for experts who will find IT solutions," concludes Capak and adds that the rules will apply to Croatian citizens as well as to the rest of Europe.

Already now, all citizens who have been vaccinated, regardless of which vaccine - Pfizer, Moderna, or AstraZeneca - receive a vaccination certificate, i.e., a card with their name and surname, the vaccine they received, and the serial number. It is a cardboard card that additionally contains when the second dose is received. Different manufacturers have different cards, but the principle is the same. Each card also has a QR code, but it does not contain the data of the person who was vaccinated, but information about the vaccine they received.

As Capak also points out, such certificates can only be used for medical purposes for the time being. Still, the EU is discussing what kind of application they could have, especially in tourism. Although vaccination is voluntary, some airlines have already made it clear that only vaccinated passengers will fly. Some EU members have already announced that such certificates will substitute for a negative PCR test when entering their country. Israel, for example, announces that without such confirmation, citizens will not be allowed to enter mass gatherings, and unvaccinated employees will work in dislocated offices and will not be allowed to socialize with others.

Such an approach opens up many controversies, especially in human rights, given that vaccination is voluntary and that, at least for now, there are not enough vaccines on the market for everyone. Thus, the question arises whether vaccination can be required as a condition for entry, for example, on a plane.

Therefore, as Jutarnji finds out, in addition to IT requirements, the huge deficit of vaccines on the market is one reason why passports will not work for some time.

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

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