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. 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.

Thursday, 4 March 2021

Veljko Ostojic: If COVID Passport Is Precondition for Traveling, It Is Discrimination

March 4, 2021 – Veljko Ostojic, director of the Croatian Tourism Association, was a guest on the Dobro Jutro, Hrvatska show, where he discussed COVID passports and vaccinations of tourist workers.

"First, we need to define what a COVID passport is. In my opinion, if it is a precondition for crossing the border, then it is discrimination. If it is a document that will allow those who have been vaccinated to cross the border faster and easier – I'm for it," Ostojic told HRT's Dobro Jutro, Hrvatska show.

Although it is not yet fully defined, the COVID passport should be given to those who have been vaccinated, those who have recovered, and those tested by PCR just before the trip, said Ostojic.

Asked whether entering Croatia will be similar to last year's, given that the vaccination will not be as expected, Ostojic said he hoped so. However, the priority goal for Croatia should be to "get green" as soon as possible. In that way, we could say that we are managing the epidemiological situation and that we are a safe country.

"Common European criteria for crossing the border should be defined, the epidemiological situation in our most important emitting markets should be monitored, from Germany, Austria onwards," says the Croatian Tourism Association director. He adds that it is still too early to talk about this topic because we still have a month, a month and a half.

Regarding the vaccination of tourist workers as a condition for the safe destination status, about which a promotional campaign was also launched, Veljko Ostojic says that tourist workers' vaccination will never be 100 percent. The Croatian Tourism Association conducted a survey with the Association of Hoteliers and the Croatian Camping Association. About 70 percent of employees expressed interest in vaccinations a month ago, Ostojic said.

There will likely be an organized vaccination of tourism workers after the first and second priority groups are vaccinated. We hope that it will be during April so that we can readily and vaccinated enter the primary tourist season, concluded Ostojić.

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Sunday, 28 February 2021

Spaladium Arena Prepared as Mass Vaccination Site in Split

February 28, 2021 - Preparations are coming to an end at the Spaladium Arena, soon opening as a mass vaccination site in Split. 

"Since last Monday, members of the Split-Dalmatia County Red Cross have been working on setting up the Spaladium Arena so that when larger quantities of vaccines arrive, it can be ready to welcome the start of large-scale vaccination. We have arranged 20 cubicles in which people will be vaccinated, which are needed to have a little privacy when getting vaccinated. As far as we are concerned, everything will be prepared by the end of this week at the latest," said Joško Metličić, the new director of the Split-Dalmatia County Red Cross, for Slobodna Dalmacija.

Only those who have been scheduled for vaccination will be able to come to the Spaladium Arena.

"At a specific hour, a certain number of people will be scheduled, who will be called and released to the Arena, where they will sit in prepared places and wait their turn for vaccination. Those who, say, are scheduled at 11 am will not be vaccinated at 9 if they come to the vaccination site two hours earlier. So, the order will have to be respected according to the list and according to the schedule," says Metličić.

Željka Karin, director of the Institute of Public Health of the Split-Dalmatia County, said we could start with large-scale vaccination as early as next week.

"We still don't know how much and which vaccine we will get next week. We received about six thousand doses of PfizerBiontech and AstraZeneca vaccines this week, and Moderna did not come, although it was announced. We distributed all the obtained vaccines to family doctors and special duty points, where people are also vaccinated. How many people have been vaccinated with those six thousand doses so far? We don't know yet. However, I think that next week we should not receive less than six thousand doses," says Dr. Karin.

Interest in vaccination is high.

"People are calling; they want to get vaccinated. If we had sufficient quantities of vaccines, we in Split-Dalmatia County would quickly vaccinate the population. We would have a satisfactory number of vaccinated by June this year at the latest. But for now, unfortunately, the vaccine is not in sufficient quantities. Next week we could put Spaladium Arena into operation to see if everything will work well and so that we can, if there are any shortcomings, fix those shortcomings so that it is ready for the real mass vaccination, which I expect in mid-March," explains Dr. Karin.

The number of cases in Split-Dalmatia County started to grow, connected with several events where groups of people were noticed (family celebrations, socializing in apartments).

"In the last two days, we have a slight decline, and I want to believe that there will continue to be a decline in the number of new infections. But when the terraces of catering facilities open, if the numbers start to go wild again, they will need to think about a possible closure again because it won’t make sense. I believe that it is in everyone's interest to have a tourist season, and I believe that it is in the interest of all private individuals who have restaurants and cafes to work over the summer. Therefore, I ask everyone and call on everyone to take responsibility and to respect all epidemiological measures, so that they would not be surprised and so that sometime in April they would not be forced to close catering facilities again," concluded Željka Karin.

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

Monday, 22 February 2021

Easing Measures in Croatia on March 1: Not Everything Will Open, Says Božinović

February 22, 2021 - At the National Civil Protection Headquarters' press conference on Monday, Interior Minister Davor Božinović spoke about easing measures in Croatia on March 1.

Jutarnji List reports that in the last 24 hours, 72 new COVID-19 cases were recorded, and the number of active cases in Croatia today is 2111.

Among them, 792 patients are in hospital, of which 68 are on a ventilator. 

20 people died. The average age of the deceased is 76 years. 166,146 doses of vaccine had been used, and 108,311 people were vaccinated. For 57,835 people, the vaccination was completed.

HZJZ director Krunoslav Capak reported on the 14-day incidence per 100,000 inhabitants.

"We have 72 new cases. A week ago, there were 68 new cases, and the week before, 71 new cases. The mild beginning of the plateau of an equal number of patients or a very slight increase continues. We currently have two percent more than the week before. The current incidence for the Republic of Croatia in 14 days is 111.2. The lowest incidence is in the County of Istria and the highest in Dubrovnik-Neretva County. In terms of incidence, Croatia ranks 3rd in the EU. Only Denmark and Finland have the lowest, and the Czech Republic has the highest in the EU: 1109.7. The total mortality rate per million inhabitants is 1331.9, and we are ranked 19th out of 27 EU countries. The share of positives in those tested today is 3.2 and for the last 14 days, 6.0. So far, HALMED has received 927 reports of suspected side effects, of which 822 are on the Pfizer vaccine, 48 on the Moderna, and 57 on the AstraZeneca," Capak said.

Capak spoke about the shipments of vaccines expected in Croatia.

"This week, we need to receive 23,400 doses of Pfizer, 16,800 Moderna, and 52,000 AstraZeneca. Moderna has announced that it will deliver those 16,800 doses on February 25. Of all the others, we have announcements for March, only from Moderna. We do not have dates, but they announced about 55,000 doses during March. We should receive another 508,630 doses of vaccine by the end of March."

Minister of Health Vili Beroš spoke about 20% fewer examinations and procedures in hospitals this year.

"It ranges from 19-28%. We learned in this spring wave and adjusted the health care system. Everywhere in the world, health capacities are focused on solving Covid problems. We had to operate one entire facility to provide COVID-19 protection to positive patients and relieve all other health facilities. I think we succeeded in that. We appeal to health institutions and patients to respond to preventive examinations. This is of fundamental importance. Many avoid these examinations for fear of getting infected in hospitals, which is not good. It is important to have regular preventive check-ups. And the general population does not respond in the desired number to preventive examinations. We are thinking about it, and we have adjusted the health care system so that as many institutions as possible provide other health care," he said.

Capak commented on allegations that those receiving the AstraZeneca vaccine will not have to wear masks afterward.

"The type of immunity that protects our mucous membrane from the virus, so that it cannot live on it, is a different type of immunity than the one that develops after vaccination. AstraZeneca was the first to publish a study, and their vaccine also protects against virus transmission. And if the vaccine develops immunity, we weren’t sure if that person could receive the virus on the mucosa and transmit it. That’s why we recommended wearing a mask even after vaccination. Whether other vaccine manufacturers will conduct such studies, we do not currently know. We wouldn’t tell anyone now not to wear a mask; everyone should wear a mask. Until the transmission of the virus and the number is significantly reduced, it is recommended for everyone to wear masks," said Capak.

Božinović commented on the possibility of easing measures from March 1.

"Talks have already begun this week. It all depends on the epidemiological situation, which is good despite these particular increases. The Republic of Croatia is at the top of the countries when it comes to low incidence. We will talk to the ministers. Our goal is the same, to normalize life as much as possible, to start as many economic activities as possible. Certainly, on March 1, we will not open everything as before the epidemic, but if these trends continue, the possibility of certain concessions certainly exists. I wouldn’t want to be more specific here now. We monitor the situation locally as well. When we talk about the counties' demands, that decision is always a decision of the National Headquarters. We are not against initiatives, but for each specific initiative from the county level, the decision will be made by the National Headquarters."

Capak commented on the slight increase 4 days in a row compared to the week before.

"Four days is not enough to talk about the trend. This is a slight increase from the figure a week ago. Now we can think that it is some oscillation, or we can say that it is the stagnation of the fall that we had so that the plateau has leveled off and the numbers are rising. We will see this over the next few days; we can hope it is a slight oscillation after which the numbers will fall."

Capak commented on the start of mass vaccination in Zagreb.

"I don't know about any problems. From the beginning, the possibility of getting vaccinated in organizations or at checkpoints has been included. Some have reached the stage of using checkpoints. In Zagreb, the transition to the second phase was a bit late, and now we got a little more vaccine, and the first phase is over. HZJZ has decided to make vaccination actions at checkpoints. Tomorrow we will vaccinate in Mihaljevac and the City of Zagreb in NZJZ Andrija Štampar. Patients from the list of health centers will come; 60 patients have been ordered every half hour. We estimate that we will vaccinate 900-1000 people."

Journalists asked the Headquarters about the tourist season and testing.

"It was discussed that those who return to their countries should be allowed to do PCR in Croatia to cross the border. We will try to organize it again this year during the season, and there is still time until then. Whether it will be at the airport or somewhere else remains to be seen. We think we will then have enough free capacity for PCR tests. There is still no EU country that recognizes rapid antigen tests for crossing the border, "Capak said.

Božinović continued.

"Numerous conversations are taking place on this, at all levels. There will be a European Council meeting soon. The Headquarters is constantly in communication with the Ministry, and we have planned meetings on this topic. This is just one of the issues we will discuss."

Reporters asked Božinović about the possible concessions on March 1.

"We are probably one of the most open EU countries, and the fact is that there is not much we talk about yet. Of course, when we talk about restrictions, some relate to some activities that are already open and take place under certain circumstances. I think it is becoming clear to everyone that our model from day one was that we need to be rational, put everything in the context of the overall epidemiological situation to function as much as possible, and not make decisions that we will soon change. We are all affected in different ways, and we all suffer because of it. Solidarity could and should now be increasingly oriented towards becoming aware of the risks and problems that the epidemic brings to certain sections of the population. The fact is that the most at risk are the elderly, the chronically ill, and they are certainly not the ones looking for measures to be eased. When they give in, they are in the group of those most at risk. That’s why everyone needs to see what they can do to protect the most vulnerable. They need to take care of themselves, adhere to measures, and insist that everyone who comes close to them, especially younger family members, adheres to the measures. I want to say that different groups need to think for themselves about the epidemic risks. If we achieve a kind of understanding, there will be less and less need to impose something as behavior. The open-close approach is slowly being exhausted."

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

Monday, 22 February 2021

Mass Vaccination Begins in Zagreb: Over 65s, Chronic Patients First in Line

February 22, 2021 - Mass vaccination begins in Zagreb today for people over 65 and chronic patients.

Jutarnji List reports that this week, 16,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccines should be distributed to family medicine clinics in Zagreb to vaccinate people over 65 and chronic patients, reveals the Zagreb Teaching Institute for Public Health "Dr. Andrija Štampar."

So far, about 85,000 Zagreb citizens who have entered this category have applied for vaccination, and the Institute says that the number is increasing every day. Citizens will be vaccinated by about 400 medical teams of family medicine, with 35 percent voting for vaccination in their offices. In contrast, the rest will be vaccinated at one of the 19 points provided for that purpose in the city.

The mass vaccination of people over the age of 65 and chronic patients started on Saturday in Međimurje as well.

Everything is ready for vaccination in Zagreb, said Zvonimir Šostar, director of the Institute of Public Health 'Dr. Andrija Štampar' for HRT.

"We have 12,000 doses of AstraZeneca at our disposal, so three vials would be given to each vaccinee, some 35 percent of whom will be vaccinated in their organizations and 65 percent at 19 points. Moderna did not arrive here last week, although it was announced, I believe it will come today or tomorrow, so we will immediately forward another bottle of Moderna to our colleagues, i.e., 10 doses," said Šostar.

He also explained that the Moderna vaccine must be transported frozen, while the AstraZeneca does not require special conditions. Vaccine delivery will end this afternoon.

"We are doing a huge job, and the employees are working until 11 pm, midnight," said Šostar and added that there is no fear about the effectiveness of the AstraZeneca vaccine. If all goes well, 17,000 people could receive the vaccine this week.

"All the vaccine in this world that is used protects you from severe forms of the disease, from hospitalization, and ultimately from ventilators," Šostar added for HRT.

"Every week, more and more people apply to doctors for vaccinations, and the younger population has recently started applying," said Mirela Marković, a member of the executive board of KoHOM, whose office begins vaccination tomorrow morning.

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

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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Monday, 15 February 2021

Sputnik V Vaccine in Croatia: Russia Ready to Deliver

February 15, 2021 - Spokesman of the Embassy of the Russian Federation in Croatia, Matvey Sidorov, spoke about the possibility of the Sputnik V vaccine in Croatia. 

The spokesman of the Embassy of the Russian Federation in Croatia, Matvey Sidorov, was a guest of New Day on N1. He spoke about the Russian vaccine Sputnik V and the possible delivery of that vaccine to Croatia.

Sidorov did not want to talk about the meeting between Prime Minister Plenković and the Russian ambassador before the government announced them.

"Sputnik V was on the table, and the Russian ambassador conveyed good intentions. We spoke about possibilities and details," he said.

He also cited the example of a European Union member state that already uses the Sputnik V vaccine.

"We have such an example; it is Hungary. An agreement was concluded on January 22, and on February 1, the vaccine arrived in Hungary," Sidorov said.

The number of vaccines is a complex and logistical issue, Sidorov said, stating that it is a matter that the appropriate people in the departments could solve.

“Palestine got the vaccine in three weeks, but it was through Israel. Two weeks is the normal approximate speed of delivery, but this should be resolved between the Russian manufacturer and the appropriate body in the Republic of Croatia according to your vaccination plan," said Sidorov.

He reiterated that they are always ready to help.

"We will not use it as a geopolitical benefit. We want to vaccinate the whole world as soon as possible. We also consider an agreement on the production of Russian vaccines in other countries possible," Sidorov added.

Sidorov noted that Russia had not set any conditions on the table for importing vaccines and thinks that there will be no such conditions.

Sidorov said 2.5 million citizens were vaccinated in Russia last week, and now there are just about 3 million people.

“Mass free vaccinations started on January 18. There are several mobile centers in Moscow and other major cities. Every citizen of Russia or foreign citizen who has a residence in Russia can be vaccinated," he explained.

No one has yet been vaccinated at the Embassy of the Russian Federation in Zagreb.

"It would take at least three weeks to go to Russia. That is why we are waiting for Sputnik V in Croatia. We cannot be vaccinated on the territory of the Republic of Croatia without the appropriate permits from state bodies," Sidorov said.

He recalled a study in the medical journal The Lancet that reported that the Sputnik V vaccine's effectiveness was 91.8 percent.

“We find it quite effective, at the level of any other vaccine in the world. We are confident about this vaccine," Sidorov said.

Asked why the Russian vaccine has not yet been approved in the European Union, he replied: “I can't say. We have sent a request to the European Medicines Agency, and we are waiting for an official response from them. We are ready for that. I don't really know why it's not going in that direction."

The number of vaccine doses delivered would depend entirely on the relevant bodies' ideas and plans in Croatia.

"As we agree, so it will be. I do not see any limit on the number of doses. I don't see any obstacles to a large number of doses," said Sidorov.

He once again noted that the quantity would depend on Croatia's official requirements.

"We are always ready for dialogue. Our embassy is ready to do it as soon as possible and deliver it," he concluded.

Illustration by Little Shiva

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

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.

Wednesday, 10 February 2021

Epidemiologist Bernard Kaic: 8 Infected with UK Coronavirus Variant, In Croatia Since January

February 10, 2021 – At today's Civil Protection Headquarters' press conference, Croatian epidemiologist Bernard Kaic stated that there are eight more infected with the British variant of coronavirus in Croatia. Interior Minister Davor Božinović said that the virus has been present in Croatia since January 20th, 2021.

In the past 24 hours, 577 new cases have been recorded, so the number of active cases in Croatia today is 2596. Among them, 1,055 patients are in hospital, of which 92 are on respirators. Fourteen people died. Epidemiologist Bernard Kaić said that the number of infections in Croatia is decreasing from week to week.

"These 577 cases are less than last week. The share of positives among those tested is also falling. However, these are still large numbers compared to spring. The daily incidence is 146 per 100,000. We are among the better in the EU; only four countries have a lower incidence. As for the counties, the lowest incidence of 14 days is in Istria County with 42 per 100,000, followed by Požega-Slavonia County with 63, and the highest in Split-Dalmatia County," Kaić said.

He added that 655 side effects had been reported on the Pfizer vaccine and 17 on the Moderna vaccine to date. As he says, side effects were expected. Twenty-nine allergic reactions have been reported, but all have passed without any consequences.

Samples of the new variant taken at the end of January

Alemka Markotić talked about the British variant of coronavirus that appeared in Croatia today. The first three cases have been confirmed.

"Colleagues from the Croatian Institute of Public Health (HZJZ) said they had preliminary results for eight patients, but they will inform the public in more detail. As for the samples we confirmed, one is a 50-year-old man from the Family Medicine Practice; the clinic has no data on his clinical state. There is a 3,5-year-old child, who had symptoms of the gastrointestinal tract, fever, vomiting, and diarrhea, and the parents are positive. A third is a 34-year-old man, and we have no information about him," Markotić said.

She added that what they found was no surprise and that it was a matter of time when the new variant of coronavirus would be detected in Croatia. It was good that a significant number of new patients connected with the new variant could not be seen. However, she stressed that we still need to be very responsible, vigilant, and adhere to measures.

Kaić said that there is no data for these eight positive cases yet. It is only known that the samples were taken in the second half of January. They still do not know all the contacts of the infected with the new strain, but they have been working on it since early morning. They will undoubtedly be required to be in self-isolation.

"Those eight infected are from Zagreb, Sisak, and Vukovar-Srijem County. Samples were taken in the second half of January. That means we had a new strain back then. We need to do everything we can to reduce the spread of the new variant so as not to increase the incidence," Kaić said.

Beroš: All three types of vaccines are effective

"It is crucial to detect the new variant's existence by sequencing methods we have undertaken, and it is important to respond epidemiologically to new challenges. The whole of Europe is on alert. This is an opportunity to show responsible behavior once again. Our vigilance has created a good basis for a new fight. We will have to balance between milder and stricter measures," said Health Minister Vili Beroš.

As for the vaccines, Beroš said that the vaccination with the AstraZeneca vaccine has begun. The vaccination with Pfizer and Moderna will continue, and the second phase will start when it is the turn of senior citizens and people with comorbidities.

He stressed that none of the vaccines in Croatia have age restrictions. Regardless of the effectiveness' percentages, all three vaccines in the 100 percent range prevent the onset of the most severe forms of the disease, hospitalization, and death.

"We use what is available, and these are three types of vaccines that the whole world considers to be effective," Beroš said.

The most vulnerable are a priority in vaccination

Journalists asked the Civil Protection Headquarters about the University of Zagreb rector Damir Boras, who was allegedly vaccinated "before his turn", which caused a great deal of public attention.

"I immediately asked for a statement, and I condemn the vaccination before your turn. We have adopted a vaccination plan. The deprivation of the rights of the most vulnerable is not acceptable. I will wait for a response from the Rebro Clinical Hospital Center, and we will see. I appeal to all those who carry out vaccination to do it according to the vaccination plan," said Beroš.

When asked how they decide what to do with unused doses, Kaić said there is no prescribed protocol.

"A common-sense protocol is to vaccinate someone interested rather than throw away the vaccine, especially when we don't have enough vaccine, regardless of who is vaccinated to get another dose when needed. Likewise, suppose it is possible to start vaccinating in dispensaries, and somewhere the last user of a nursing home or the last health worker in the area has not yet been given. In that case, the first phase of vaccination inevitably overlaps with the second. Where would we come from not giving the vaccine we have. Decent quantities have arrived this week; next week, they are coming again. If we do not give the vaccine until the first phase is resolved, it would be harmful to delay vaccination," said Kaić.

Beroš said he did not believe the rumors that people were getting vaccinated before their turn. He said he condemned such actions. "We are all equal, but the most vulnerable must have priority," he said.

Božinović: New decision on measures to protect both people and economy

When asked by journalists about how a new variant of coronavirus entered Croatia, Alemka Markotić answered – by human migration.

"We will try to find out in detail where they were imported from. But viruses migrate along with humans. It would not be like that if there were no such migrations. It is a variant that is spreading faster. It is among us, and we must adhere to the measures in force to prevent the spread, such as in Ireland, Portugal. The whole world is in fear of spreading. If the health care system is burdened, the number of dead will also increase. In Germany, they are proposing even stricter measures," Markotić said.

Interior Minister Davor Božinović commented on the easing of measures.

"We have to pay attention to the new strain, but that is not a reason to panic. We have to monitor the situation in European countries. Each country reacted differently, and all this happens when vaccination does not go as planned. We must also take into account the forecast announcing low temperatures. So, we will take all this into account," Božinović said.

He added that a new variant of the coronavirus has been present in Croatia since January 20, 2021, since the numbers of newly infected people have been falling.

"The new variant will also be discussed at the Scientific Council to make a decision that will protect people, but also which must be rational for economic activities," Božinović said.

A new strain of coronavirus will be detected by random testing, and Markotić said they would also react as soon as they notice that someone has come from abroad or that there are more hospitalized or infected in an area. It takes about two weeks to complete the whole process because a regular PCR test does not do it, but the process is more complicated.

Sources:, Jutarnji list

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